AB10: Unharvested cereal headland

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the unharvested cereal headland option.

How much will be paid

£640 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

Whole or part parcel

Rotational only on:

  • arable land
  • temporary grassland

How this option will benefit the environment

It provides an important food source for farmland birds throughout the year and insects in the summer, and provides both grain and seeding arable plants in winter.

If successful there will be:

  • areas of open crop growth, allowing access for foraging farmland birds
  • a crop structure supporting a range of declining arable plants and other broad-leaved plants
  • plants providing summer and winter foraging for declining and localised farmland birds (especially grey partridge), mammals and important farmland pollinator species, such as bees and other beneficial insects
  • strips or areas of weedy unharvested cereals providing over-wintering habitat for insects and food for seed-eating farmland birds


  • establish a cereal crop (not maize) between February and April in strips between 6m and 24m wide or on a part-field or field scale
  • create an open crop structure by managing the crop to deliver between 450 and 700 fertile tillers per square metre
  • leave the option area unharvested until 1 February in the year following grain head production before returning to normal rotational management

Do not:

  • apply any fertilisers or manures
  • apply any lime
  • use any herbicides except those on the list of permitted active ingredients available from Natural England
  • apply any insecticides after 15 March

Keeping records

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

  • records at parcel level of field operations, including seed invoices

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you haven’t carried out any activities prohibited by the option requirements.

The following options and supplements can be located on 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 successfully but does not form part of the requirements for this option.

Pick the right location

This option can be successful on most soil types but ideally choose a location with low levels of thistles or problem weeds such as blackgrass. This will help the beneficial arable plants in the soil seedbank to grow without competition and provide a range of valuable habitats during the growing season. It will also allow the arable flora to set seed during the early summer period and retains the insect-rich habitat for foraging farmland birds.

Sowing the crop

It is important to make sure that the crop delivering the unharvested headland is not too dense, which restricts the foraging opportunities for farmland birds such as grey partridge. Managing the seed rate by considering drilling date, seed thousand grain weight, varietal tillering capacity and soil conditions will help achieve the required open crop structure.

Using herbicides

The objective for this option is to encourage the natural populations of arable plants that support both insects and farmland birds. Applying broad-spectrum herbicide during the cropping season and non-selective herbicides to help with harvest stops this from happening. There is only a limited list of herbicide actives that are permitted in this option, and these are subject to change as UK pesticide approvals are reviewed, so make sure to consult the most up-to-date list from Natural England.

Permitted active ingredients

The following herbicide active ingredients can be used:

  • Amidosulfuron
  • Clodinafop-propargyl
  • Fenoxaprop-P-ethyl
  • Pinoxaden
  • Tri-allate

Please note: the permitted active ingredients cannot necessarily be used on all eligible crops within options AB7, AB10 and AB14. It is the responsibility of the agreement holder to confirm whether herbicides are approved for use on the affected crop. ALWAYS use pesticides in full accordance with the product label conditions of use.

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 6 July 2018 + show all updates
  1. List of permitted active ingredients added to section on Advice and suggestions.
  2. Updated for 2017 applications.
  3. Information updated for applications in 2016.
  4. First published.