HS9: Restricted depth crop establishment to protect archaeology under an arable rotation

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the restricted depth crop establishment to protect archaeology under an arable rotation option.

How much will be paid

£174 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

  • in Mid Tier this option can only be used on Scheduled Monuments on arable land or temporary grassland
  • in Mid Tier this option can only be used with the written approval of Historic England as confirmed on your Historic Environment FER (HEFER) consultation response
  • in Higher Tier this option can be used on Scheduled Monuments where approved by Historic England and on historic or archaeological features identified in your HEFER.

When this option cannot be used

On parcels at risk of soil erosion or runoff, as identified in the Farm Environment Record (FER)

How this option will benefit the environment

It reduces the risk of damage to historic and archaeological features on arable land, particularly where subtle earthwork remains survive.

Maintaining archaeological and historic features will conserve the character of the farm and protect England’s heritage for future generations.

Arable cultivation damages archaeological remains by:

  • levelling out earthworks
  • cutting through and churning up remains below ground
  • eroding protective layers of soil

Using direct drill machinery across earthwork remains reduces the risk of damage to archaeological features.

Cover-cropping techniques can help to avoid damage to soil structure and weed problems which might otherwise build up under a direct drilling regime, by:

  • reducing compaction
  • limiting erosion
  • suppressing weeds

If successful there will be a soil surface with no evidence of:

  • erosion
  • subsoil (which indicates a deeper cultivation depth)
  • freshly disturbed archaeological remains, such as pottery, burnt flint, flint tools, animal and human bone and building stone and tile

There will also be improved soil structure and fewer weeds.


  • make sure the following field operations do not go deeper than 15cm:

    • tillage
    • soil management
    • planting
    • harvesting
  • use a direct drill system where historic or archaeological earthworks are known to survive
  • make sure that vehicle or stock access routes are at least 6m away from the historic or archaeological feature - existing surfaced tracks may still be used
  • one year in every 5 include a sown cover as part of the crop rotation, based on the “What to sow” section below

Do not:

  • use equipment trains that are longer than 6m
  • grow the following crops on the option area:

    • maize
    • lucerne
    • root and tuber crops (excluding non-harvestable root crops such as grazed fodder beet and forage turnips)
    • short rotation coppice
    • miscanthus
  • carry out drainage works, including modifying existing drainage, before gaining written approval from Natural England

Keeping records

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

  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • consents or permissions connected with the work

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

All applicants must submit the following with their application:

  • a land drainage map
  • a map of existing tracks
  • written approval for the use of this option from Historic England

These options and supplements can be located on the same area as this:

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.

Reduce cultivation depth and compaction

Cultivation depth can be reduced through:

  • direct drilling
  • raising the height of the chisel
  • using depth control chains or gauges
  • using a GPS depth controller
  • increasing the number of discs (14 discs for a 3m width instead of the usual 9)
  • using depth wheels with parallelogram mounting

Compaction can be reduced by:

  • not working in wet soil conditions
  • reducing tyre pressure of vehicles travelling on the site to spread the load more evenly

Cover crop: What to sow

A mixture based on the following species will supply overwinter cover and cover into the next year:

  • ryegrass
  • millet
  • triticale
  • red clover
  • crimson clover
  • birdsfoot trefoil
  • phacelia
  • common vetch
  • mustard

Shallow rooting species are preferable. This will prevent damage from plants with a deeper, penetrating root structure like sweet clover.

Cover crop: When to sow

The cover crop should be established quickly to get the most environmental benefits. This can be done by:

  • including the cover crop in the preceding crop at harvest time using auto-casting equipment
  • sowing the cover crop immediately following harvest in the autumn

Depending on the seed mixture, the cover crop can be broadcast on to the surface and rolled afterwards.

Sow in the autumn and keep until 31 July the following year.

Cover crop: Sowing

Agreement holders are more likely to succeed if they:

  • establish the cover crop quickly
  • sow mixtures with good frost tolerance
  • have good ground cover

Further information

The following Historic England guide may be of use:

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

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 29 March 2016 + show all updates
  1. Information updated for applications in 2016.
  2. First published.