Land Management for Arable Plants & Agri-environment Schemes

Many arable plants grow in a range of soils. The aim of management is always to encourage plants to reappear from buried seed.


Arable wildflowers

Creating the right conditions and letting nature take its course encourages natural regeneration from the soil seed bank as well as being cost effective. Field margins and corners usually have the richest seed bank. There are some general principles for managing land for arable plants:

  • Locate the management at the location where the rare or threatened arable plant has been recorded;
  • Plough the area annually either in the autumn (September-November) or spring (March-April) depending on the cornfield flowers present, or on rotation varying between these two seasons, to turn over the soil and bring buried seed to the soil surface. Fallow margins and plots could be cultivated at the same time as the rest of the field;
  • Do not worry about sowing a crop. Arable plants require disturbed ground and the crop is inconsequential to their germination. In fact, some species may find that competition with a crop affects their growth as they struggle to survive a closed sward;
  • Do not use broad-spectrum herbicides, and if herbicide treatment is required to control a problem plants, i.e. wild oat, black-grass, perennial sowthistle, spear thistle and creeping thistle, seek advice about targeted gramnicides and herbicides;
  • Reduce or do not use fertiliser as this boosts crops often to the detriment of arable plants;
  • create an open crop structure if a cereal, legume or root crop is sown by using a lowed drill rate;
  • Leave the stubble after harvesting as late as possible into the autumn as some arable plants can flower and set seed late into the autumn.

Conservation measures for arable plants include annually cultivated fallow margins and plots, unsprayed and unfertilised cereal fields, headlands and root crops and wild bird seed cover. Some of these may also be included in agri-environment schemes . Outside of a scheme targeting sympathetic management at the right place will work and help arable plants to thrive on a small piece of land using the principles outlined above.

See our management leaflets about how to manage arable plants for more specific guidance: