GS3: Ryegrass seed-set as winter food for birds

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the ryegrass seed-set as winter food for birds option.

How much will be paid

£331 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

Whole or part parcel


Only on:

  • temporary grassland
  • permanent grassland that has been cultivated and re-sown within the last 5 years

Swards must contain at least 50% ryegrass (perennial, Italian or hybrid).

How this option will benefit the environment

There will be an abundance of ryegrass seed in the autumn, providing food for many birds (including yellowhammers and other buntings, gamebirds such as grey partridge, and skylarks) until late winter.


  • close the field for at least 5 weeks before cutting, and take a silage cut before 31 May
  • close the field after cutting and removal, allow the sward to flower and set seed in the autumn, and leave the sward undisturbed until 1 March
  • part parcels must be at least 10m wide

On swards containing at least 70% Italian or hybrid ryegrass, a second cut of silage (or hay) can be taken before 30 June.

This option can be moved between different eligible parcels of land, but the same total area (hectarage) must be maintained each year.

Do not:

  • allow any grazing for at least 5 weeks before the first cut or, for Italian or hybrid ryegrass, in the period before the second cut

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
  • stock records to show grazing activity

Applicants will need to supply with their applications:

  • evidence of the sward composition will be needed with the application
  • when applying to use this option on permanent grassland, evidence will be needed that the grassland has been cultivated within the last 5 years

These options and supplements can be located in 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, but does not form part of the requirements for this option.

How to choose a site

This option is designed to benefit buntings and other declining farmland birds, though it is also good for invertebrates and small mammals. For best results it should be used in areas that have:

  • a population of buntings
  • dense hedges and scrub for nesting
  • invertebrate-rich habitat for summer feed (e.g. leniently grazed, low-input grassland and enhanced arable margins)

This option can provide essential winter seed food. On mixed farms it can be combined with arable options such as AB9 - Winter bird food. (See guidance on the Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package (Mid Tier manual section 8.3)

As a part-field option the best results can be obtained by placing it next to a hedgerow or wooded edge. However, it should be kept well away from hedges and trees to feed skylarks.

This option should only be used on areas that are at least 0.5ha in size. More birds will benefit if the option is split between 2 or more locations up to 500m apart.

The option is intended for intensive grass farms that have little scope to put land in other grassland or arable options, where regular reseeding is a typical practice.

How to manage this option

The aim is to have a large amount of herbage over the winter, which will enable hard harrowing or an early spring cut.

If grass is in rotation on the farm, or is regularly ploughed and re-sown, this option could be used:

  • on fields due to be ploughed or re-sown
  • on thinned swards that would benefit from the self-seeding this option provides

Further information

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.