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

£569 hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

It’s available for Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier and Higher Tier on whole or part parcels in rotation, but only on:

  • arable land
  • temporary grassland

Where this option cannot be used

  • On organic parcels or land in conversion

How this option will benefit the environment

It provides food for farmland wildlife, such as pollen and nectar for pollinators including bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies. As well as invertebrate chick food for farmland birds around the sown fallow between April and July. It can also be a useful part of a rotation aimed at reducing blackgrass populations.


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.

In the summer/autumn/spring, a seed mix of 6 flowering species will be establishing, in years 1 and re-established in year 3.

To prevent blackgrass heading, the mix will be cut at least twice during the first 12 months after sowing (between 1 March and 31 October)

The sown mix will be present until the end of the second summer after sowing (years 3 and 5).

Prohibited activities

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

  • Graze or conserve forage

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:

  • retain the sown legume fallow until 15 August in the second summer after sowing

  • in the second year after establishment cut between 1 March and 15 May to control blackgrass

You can find advice on what to sow in the Additional guidance and advice section.

Keeping records

Where there is 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.

  • Records of field operations at the parcel level, including any associated invoices
  • Photographs of the option

Additional guidance and advice

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

Pick the right location

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

In the autumn, sow a mixture (based on the suggestions below) and retain for 2 years before re-establishing.

Flower species % inclusion rate
Alsike clover 10
Bird’s-foot trefoil 7
Black medick 5
Common vetch 50
Lucerne 15
Red clover 15
Total 100

Sow the seed mix at 15 to20 kilograms (kg) per hectare with the lower seed rate appropriate on light/medium soils and the higher seed rate appropriate on heavier soils.

You can also include grasses such as cocksfoot, perennial ryegrass or timothy in seed mix to help smother blackgrass and other competitive grass weeds.

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.

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).

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. 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. 'Air quality' added to Land use.

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

  5. The Requirements and 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.