OP2: Wild bird seed mixture

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the wild bird seed mixture option.

How much will be paid

£640 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

It is available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier, on whole or part parcels in rotation on:

  • land registered as organic or ‘in conversion’ with a Defra-licensed organic control body
  • land that has been sown to grass for fewer than 7 years

Where this option cannot be used

  • 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 a valuable year-round habitat and food for farmland wildlife such as pollinators and farmland birds.

If successful there should be an increase in important food resources for farmland birds, especially in winter and early spring.

Requirements

You must:

  • make sure blocks or strips are at least 6m wide and a minimum of 0.4ha in size - the maximum individual plot size is 5ha
  • establish by sowing a seed mix containing at least 6 seed bearing crops between 15 February and 15 June. Seed mixes may contain a maximum of 3 of the following cereal crops but no individual crop group must exceed 90% of the total mix by weight
    • barley
    • oats
    • rye
    • triticale
    • wheat
  • make sure the mix complies with organic certification rules. Apply to your organic control body for a derogation if organic seed is unavailable
  • re-establish one year mixes annually and two year mixes every other year to maintain seed production
  • re-sow winter bird plots that fail to establish
  • retain winter bird food plots until 15 February each year

You cannot use the following crops:

  • artichokes
  • canary grass
  • giant and intermediate sorghum
  • maize
  • miscanthus
  • sweet clover
  • tic beans

For advice on what to sow and re-sow see the Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option section.

Keeping records

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

  • seed invoices
  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • a valid organic certificate and schedule for all the parcels entered into this option at application and on your annual claim – RPA will not request this information if you have already supplied it for a Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claim

You can locate the following options on the same area as this option:

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

Use this option on most areas of the farm, but mixtures work best in sunny locations and on fertile sites.

Avoid planting underneath overhanging trees or next to shading woodland, as this leads to poorer establishment, growth and seed production.

You should place winter bird food mixes next to a field edge but they can extend into the field. Leave access to surrounding crops to allow for management.

Block and plot sizes

Creating wider and bigger areas of winter bird food allows more seeds to remain undiscovered for longer, which extends their value well into winter.

Smaller areas tend to suffer from birds eating all the food within a short time.

What to sow

Sow plants that will provide an extended supply of seeds for farmland birds from autumn into late winter.

Annual mixtures can include a range of cereal, brassica or other small-seeded crops such as:

  • dwarf sunflower
  • fodder radish
  • gold of pleasure
  • linseed
  • mustard
  • quinoa
  • red millet
  • spring barley
  • spring oats
  • spring triticale
  • spring wheat
  • white millet

Include biennial crops such as kale, stubble turnip or teasel in 2-year mixtures.

Make sure a single crop group, such as cereals or brassicas, is not more than 90% of the total seed mix by weight. The table below shows the crops most commonly sown in winter bird food seed mixes.

Crop group Crops most commonly sown in winter bird food seed mixes
Cereal Barley
  Oats
  Red millet
  Rye
  Triticale
  Wheat
  White millet
Brassica Fodder radish
  Forage rape
  Gold of pleasure
  Kale
  Mustard
  Oilseed rape
  Stubble turnip
Other Buckwheat
  Chicory
  Dwarf sunflower
  Linseed
  Teasel

To minimise the build-up of diseases, pests and weeds over time consider alternating between sowing cereal and brassica-based mixes on non-rotational plots every few years.

When and how to sow

Establish the plot between 1 March and 15 June, but ideally between mid-March and early June.

Create a fine and firm seedbed with seed sown at a depth between 1.5 centimetres (cm) and 2.5cm. Moisture and warmth will help any brassicas establish quickly to protect against flea beetle damage.

Managing the option

Apply organic fertilisers to help crops grow away from pest damage and produce plenty of seed.

Remember that winter bird food should be in place until at least 31 December in year 5 of the agreement.

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, Keeping records and Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option sections were updated yesterday

  2. This page has been updated

  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. Updated for 2017 applications.

  5. Information updated for applications in 2016.

  6. First published.