AB4: Skylark plots

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the skylark plots option.

How much will be paid

£10 (minimum 2 plots per hectare (ha)).

Where to use this option

  • Available for Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier and Higher Tier

  • Rotational

  • Only:

    • on arable land
    • on temporary grassland
    • in winter cereal fields with an open aspect of more than 5ha

Where this option cannot be used

  • In parcels bounded by tree lines or adjacent to woods, unless the parcel is larger than 10ha

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

How this option will benefit the environment

It provides skylarks with suitable access to nesting habitats in winter cereal crops throughout their breeding season.

If successful there will be:

  • plots providing access into the growing cereal during the spring and summer
  • skylarks holding territory and singing over the fields of winter cereals where the plots are located and, ideally, landing in the plots themselves
  • increased numbers of singing skylarks across the farm

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.

During the autumn/winter fallow plots will be created within the winter cereal crop. There will be a minimum of 2 plots per ha and each plot will be at least 3 metres (m) wide and will have a minimum area of 16 square metres. These plots will be retained until the crop is harvested.

Prohibited Activities

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

  • locate plots in tramlines, boundaries and margins (as this increases nest predation)

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.

We recommend that you:

  • create fallow plots at least 3m wide and with a minimum area of 16 square metres in winter cereal fields
  • space plots across the field at a minimum density of 2 plots per ha

Keeping records

Where there’s uncertainty about whether the aims of the options have been delivered, we will take into account any records or evidence you may have kept demonstrating 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.

  • Photographs of the plots

Additional guidance and advice

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

Pick the right location

This option works best in large, open winter cereal fields, preferably where skylarks are present or have been in the past. Avoid fields that are bordered by trees or next to woods as this increases the risks of predator attack.

Minimise attacks on nests from predators by placing plots:

  • away from tramlines (choosing a middle spot between two sets of tramlines works best)
  • at least 50m from field boundaries and margins

How to establish skylark plots

Create plots by one of the following.

  • Turning off the drill during sowing to leave an unsown plot
  • Sowing the crop as normal and spraying with herbicide to create the plot by 31 December

Managing the plots

After drilling, the plots can be managed with the same treatments as the remainder of the field.

There is no need to keep the plots weed-free but spot-treating with herbicide in April will help skylarks to access their nesting sites.

Mechanical weeding of crops containing skylark plots will destroy any nests present and is not recommended.

Further information

Read more information about Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier and Higher Tier to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

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

  2. Option updated for agreements starting from 1 January 2022.

  3. 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).

  4. Information updated for applications in 2016.

  5. First published.