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

It is available for 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
  • 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

Requirements

You must:

  • establish by sowing a seed mix containing a minimum of 6 flower species as soon as possible after harvest and before 15 September, in year 1 and year 3 of your agreement
  • cut at least twice during the first 12 months after sowing to stop blackgrass heading. You can only cut between 1 March and 31 October
  • keep until 15 August in the second summer after sowing

In the second year after establishment you are allowed to cut between 1 March and 15 May to control blackgrass.

You can find advice on what to sow in the Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option section.

Do not:

  • graze or conserve forage

Keeping records

You must keep the following records and supply them on request:

We may ask to see these at any point during your agreement, this could be as part of an administrative check or during an inspection.

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

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

Agreements starting on or before 1 January 2020

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

Flower species % inclusion rate
Intermediate or late perennial ryegrass 66
Red clover 15
Common vetch 10
Bird’s-foot trefoil 7
Common knapweed 2

If soils are dry at sowing, substitute some of the ryegrass with cocksfoot (up to 30%) or timothy to help to establish ground cover more quickly.

Agreements starting on or after 1 January 2021

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

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

Sow the seed mix at 15-20 kg/ha 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.

Further information

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

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 28 April 2020 + show all updates
  1. The Requirements and Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option sections were updated yesterday

  2. This page has been updated

  3. The Requirements and Keeping records sections of this page have been updated.

  4. 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).

  5. Updated for 2017 applications.

  6. Information updated for applications in 2016.

  7. First published.