AB1: Nectar flower mix

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the nectar flower mix option.

How much will be paid

£614 per hectare (ha)

Where to use this option

Available for Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier and Higher Tier

  • Whole or part parcel

  • Rotational

  • Only on:

    • arable land
    • temporary grass
    • bush orchards

Where this option cannot be used

  • On organic land or on land in conversion to organic status

How this option will benefit the environment

It provides areas of flowering plants to boost essential food sources for beneficial pollinators such as bumble bees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

Aims

If you’re selected for a site visit, we will check that delivery of the aims is being met and the prohibited activities have not been carried out. This will ensure the environmental benefits are being delivered.

Establish in blocks or strips between 1 March and 15 September by sowing a grass-free seed mix which contains a minimum of 6 flower species. At least 2 of these must be from the following list.

  • Common knapweed
  • Musk mallow
  • Oxeye daisy
  • Wild carrot
  • Yarrow

Once established in the first year, the seed mix, will provide a supply of pollen and nectar rich flowers.

Management will ensure there is sustained flowering throughout the spring and summer.

In the winter the whole plot of flowering plants will be cut or grazed, and the dead material removed, in preparation for regrowth during the spring.

Prohibited activities

To achieve the aims and deliver the environmental benefits, do not carry out any of the following activities:

  • graze between 15 March and 31 August

  • allow a single species to exceed 50% of the total seed mix by weight.

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you have not carried out any prohibited activities.

To assist you in achieving the aims and deliver the environmental benefits for this option, we recommend that you use best practice.

In the first 12 months after sowing you can regularly cut, to help the sown species to establish.

You then manage established nectar flower mix plots as follows.

  • Rotationally cut half (50%) of the plot area each year between 15 May and 15 June – do not cut the same area in successive years

  • Cut the whole plot (100%) each year between 15 September and 30 March

Remove or shred cuttings to prevent weed ingress and patches of dead material developing.

Keeping records

Where there’s uncertainty about whether or not the aims of the options have been delivered, we will take into account any records or evidence you may have kept to demonstrate delivery of the aims of the option. This will include any steps you’ve taken to follow the recommended management set out above. It’s your responsibility to keep such records if you want to rely on these to support your claim.

  • Seed invoices
  • Field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • Stock records to show grazing activity on parcels in particular to cover the period where grazing is prohibited.
  • Photographs of the established mixture

Additional guidance and advice

The following advice is helpful, but they are not requirements for this item.

Pick the right location

Use lower-yielding areas with a sunny aspect, facing south or south-southwest.

Avoid planting under overhanging trees, next to tall hedges or on land facing north or east. Leave access to surrounding crops to allow for management.

Block and plot sizes

Use wide margins and big blocks between 0.25ha and 0.5ha. This lets insects move to safety when fields are being sprayed.

Spacing five 0.5ha patches evenly within 100ha meets the food needs of many pollinators.

What to sow

A seed mix which contains both shorter-lived legumes and longer-lived wild flower species delivers an extended supply of pollen and nectar from late spring through to the autumn for beneficial insects such as bees, butterflies, hoverflies and moths.

You can sow the following example mix on a range of soil types.

Flower species % inclusion rate
Alsike clover 10
Bird’s-foot trefoil 10
Black medick 5
Common vetch 40
Early flowering red clover 10
Late flowering red clover 10
Lucerne 5
Sweet clover 5
Common knapweed 1.5
Musk mallow 1
Oxeye daisy 1
Wild carrot 1
Yarrow 0.5
Total 100

Sow the seed mix at 15 kg/ha.

On light free draining soils you can replace common vetch with sainfoin.

Avoid short-term mixes that do not include knapweed or mallow as they will not supply pollinators with long-term food sources for years 4 and 5 of the agreement.

How to sow

Sow by broadcasting seeds rather than drilling, when the soil is warm and moist. Use a ring roll before and after sowing. Check regularly for slug damage.

Management

Cut emerging flowers and weeds at least twice in year 1, and up to 4 times if necessary where the soil is particularly fertile. Regular cutting prevents weeds smothering the slow-growing flowers so all sown species can establish successfully.

Plots may be grazed between 1 September and 14 March, but make sure that no poaching or soil compaction by livestock takes place. Supplementary feeding could result in poaching and soil compaction, so should be avoided.

Remember you must keep nectar plots until at least 31 December in year 5 of the agreement.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

This option can form part of an IPM approach to prevent the establishment of pests, weeds and diseases. If successful, appropriate and within proximity of cropped areas, these may limit the need for the use of Plant Protection Products and enhance wildlife and biodiversity on your holding. Read information on IPM at AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) Integrated Pest Management and LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming).

Biodiversity

This option has been identified as being beneficial for biodiversity. All Countryside Stewardship habitat creation, restoration and management options are of great significance for biodiversity recovery, as are the wide range of arable options in the scheme. Capital items and supplements can support this habitat work depending on the holding’s situation and potential.

The connectivity of habitats is also very important and habitat options should be linked wherever possible. Better connectivity will allow wildlife to move/colonise freely to access water, food, shelter and breeding habitat, and will allow natural communities of both animals and plants to adapt in response to environmental and climate change. 

Further information

Order the ‘Growing farm wildlife’ DVD from Natural England which gives a step-by-step approach to sowing nectar flower mixtures.

Read Countryside Stewardship: get funding to protect and improve the land you manage to find out more information about Mid Tier and Higher Tier including how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 8 February 2022 + show all updates
  1. New payment rate from 1 January 2022

  2. Additional guidance and advice section updated - this option can form part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to prevent the establishment of pests, weeds and diseases.

  3. Option updated for agreements starting 1 January 2021.

  4. Re-linked Growing farm wildlife video

  5. The Requirements and the Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option sections were updated yesterday.

  6. This page has been updated.

  7. The Requirements and Keeping records sections of this page have been updated.

  8. From 1 January 2019, this option cannot be used on land already receiving funding for Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) declared for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

  9. Updated for 2017 applications.

  10. Information updated for applications in 2016.

  11. First published.