AB15: Two year sown legume fallow

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the two year sown legume fallow option.

How much will be paid

£522 hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

Whole or part parcel


Only on:

  • arable land
  • temporary grassland

Where this option cannot be used

  • where evidence or records exist for important arable plants (Plantlife IAPA classification 4 and above – see Appendix II, page 19). These records can either be historic (within the last 40 years) or from recent arable plant survey results
  • on organic parcels or land in conversion
  • from 1 January 2019, on land already receiving funding for Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) declared for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)

How this option will benefit the environment

It provides food for farmland wildlife, such as pollen and nectar for pollinators, and invertebrate chick food for farmland birds. It can also be a useful part of a rotation aimed at reducing blackgrass populations.

If successful there will be:

  • a reduction in flowering blackgrass and an abundant supply of sown pollen and nectar-rich flowers between early and late summer in year 3 and year 5 of the agreement
  • pollinating and beneficial insects such as bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies using these flowers
  • some adult farmland birds and chicks foraging in and around the sown fallow between April and July


  • establish a mixture of grass and flowering species as specified in the “What to sow” section as soon as possible after harvest and before 7 September, in year 1 and year 3 of the agreement
  • cut at least twice during the year as the mixture is establishing to stop blackgrass heading – do not cut after the end of October
  • in the second year after establishment, cut once before the end of March if blackgrass is present
  • return the option area to the arable rotation from 15 August in the second year after establishment

Do not:

  • graze or conserve forage

Keeping records

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

  • records of field operations at the parcel level, including any associated invoices

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.

Pick the right location

The Plantlife Important Arable Plant Areas (IAPA) handbook referenced above scores individual species; if there are records of plants which score 4 or above this option cannot be used on that location.

This option works well on most soil types where it can help to reduce the amount of blackgrass and increase wildlife resources.

It works best where some blackgrass germinates after cultivation in the autumn and more can grow from the seedbank during the winter and following spring. Mow the area as often as is needed to prevent the blackgrass from seeding.

Size of blocks or plots

Plan this option into the rotation, selecting fields on a part or whole-field scale. This will give most benefits for blackgrass reduction and biodiversity.

Spread the legume fallow areas widely across the farm to help connect insects with other farm habitats.

What to sow

Sow a mixture in the autumn based on the suggestions below, at an overall seed rate of around 30kg per ha, and retain for 2 years before re-establishment:

Plant species Proportion by weight
Intermediate or late perennial ryegrass 66%
Red clover 15%
Common vetch 10%
Birdsfoot trefoil 7%
Common or black knapweed 2%

When soils are dry at sowing, substituting some of the ryegrass with cocksfoot (up to 30%) can help to establish ground cover more rapidly.

When to sow

Establish the legume fallow as soon as possible after harvest in year 1 and year 3 of the agreement (ideally by the end of August).

When to cut

Cut at least twice in the first year following the autumn sowing to control emerging blackgrass. But be prepared for subsequent cuts to be as close as 3 weeks apart as blackgrass re-heads more rapidly after each cut.

Cutting before the end of March in year 2 controls any remaining blackgrass, before the legume fallow mixture grows away rapidly from April.

The aim of this option is to provide an abundant supply of pollen and nectar-rich flowers, and this cannot be achieved if the option area is grazed, or if fertilisers and sprays are used.

Return the option area to crop production

Spray the legume fallow mix with a non-selective herbicide if needed, before the area is cultivated for the next crop.

Return the area to the farm rotation from 15 August.

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 17 May 2018 + show all updates
  1. 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).
  2. Updated for 2017 applications.
  3. Information updated for applications in 2016.
  4. First published.