GS6: Management of species-rich grassland

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the management of species-rich grassland option.

How much will be paid

£182 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

In Mid Tier this option can only be used with approval from Natural England.

Whole and part parcel

Only on grassland priority habitat.

For Mid Tier the land must be mapped on the Priority Habitat Inventory as one of the following: lowland calcareous grassland, lowland dry acid grassland, lowland meadows, upland hay meadow, purple moor grass and rush pasture (see MAGIC).

Features that can be included in this option

The following features can be included if they are part of the land, even if they are permanently ineligible for the Basic Payment Scheme:

  • ditches, dykes, drains, rivers or streams that are less than 4m wide for the majority of their length in the parcel
  • temporary water
  • permanent water less than or equal to 0.1ha, at the discretion of Natural England
  • natural unsurfaced roads, tracks, paths and bridleways (as long as the requirements of the option can still be carried out)
  • bracken
  • scree, rock outcrops and boulders up to 0.1ha
  • grazed woodland and scrub that has grass underneath it and that livestock can access, at the discretion of Natural England
  • small areas of other habitat types, such as reedbeds, at the discretion of Natural England

How this option will benefit the environment

It will maintain and enhance priority grasslands. It will increase the number and frequency of important plant species, with most wildflowers in bloom over the summer. Many other priority species, such as bumblebees, butterflies, birds or bats, will benefit, and buried archaeological features will not be disturbed.


  • maintain or increase the presence and abundance of high value plant species
  • maintain a range of plant heights suitable for invertebrates, birds or other priority species
  • manage the grassland by grazing, hay cutting, or a mixture of both
  • maintain a continuous cover, particularly over historic features
  • use very little or no manure, fertiliser, pesticide
  • maintain scrub, rushes and other potentially dominating plants at the levels set out in your agreement
  • control undesirable plants

In Mid Tier, additional clauses may be included to refine the standard requirements. These will be discussed and agreed as part of the approval process.

Do not:

  • plough, cultivate or re-seed
  • harrow, roll or allow scrub or bracken to encroach on historic or archaeological features
  • carry out activities that may disturb breeding birds or damage nests
  • supplementary feed except for the provision of mineral blocks (non-energy based)

Keeping records

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • receipted invoices, consents or permissions connected with the work
  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • a standard soil analysis, to be completed in the final agreement year and results submitted with final claim
  • any sites grazed will require a grazing activity record
  • bag returns, if an agreed wildfowl strategy is in place

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you haven’t carried out any activities prohibited by the option requirements.

By the submission of the first claim, applicants will need to submit a laboratory soil analysis including at least pH and phosphate (P).

You should also be aware that at the start of each claim year, a percentage of agreement holders will be asked to take and submit the following photographic records:

  • photographs of the management undertaken

Applicants will have to send the following with their application:

  • a map of the existing drainage system
  • grassland eligibility documentation
  • map of species rich grassland
  • photograph showing any areas where sward enhancement will be carried out

If there is scrub on the site, send photographs showing the extent of it. Also send photographs showing the extent of scrub or bracken on historic or archaeological features.

The following options and supplements can be located on the same area as this option:

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

The following section gives advice on carrying out this option successfully but does not form part of the requirements for this option.

For successful management, in most cases the following will be needed:

  • appropriate livestock (which will often be cattle), over which the agreement holder has full control
  • machinery to carry out management requirements such as hay cutting
  • consideration of how best to manage associated features such as ditches and scrub

Upland calcareous and other very extensively managed grassland, especially in large parcels, may not be accepted for this option. Such grassland may be eligible for other Higher Tier options, such as GS13 - Management of grassland for target features.

Further information

See the Higher Tier manual to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 10 March 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated for 2017 applications.
  2. Information updated for applications in 2016.
  3. First published.