Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)

2.3    Managing habitats for arable plants

Why your farm is important

The wild plants associated with arable habitats include many species that used to be widespread across large swathes of lowland England, eg corn buttercup, corn marigold and prickly poppy, have severely declined since the mid-20th century. Improved seed-cleaning, increased use of broad-spectrum herbicides and the switch from autumn- to spring-sown cereal crops are amongst the factors which have had a major impact on arable plants. Many once-familiar species, including shepherd's-needle and spreading hedge-parsley, are now listed as priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.


Priority areas for arable plants

This map shows the priority areas for arable plants. It is intended to help you establish whether the options below are suitable for your farm. More detailed regional maps are available on the Natural England website at: www.naturalengland.org.uk/es.

If your farm lies in a high-priority or medium priority area, it may already support one or more threatened species, or your fields might support
a range of species that together comprise a particularly rich assemblage of arable plants.

Alternatively, other farms in your local area may hold important populations of arable plants, meaning that your own fields could have considerable potential, with suitable management, to support some or all of these species.


What you can do for arable plants

If you have light free-draining soils then you can benefit arable plants by creating cultivated margins or leaving conservation headlands. If you choose ELS uncropped cultivated margins, evidence shows you can produce habitat for up to five times as many arable plants than a conventional cereal crop.


Code Option description
EF9 Cereal headlands for birds
EF10 Unharvested cereal headlands for birds and rare arable plants
EF11 Uncropped cultivated margins for rare plants
EF13 Uncropped cultivated areas for ground-nesting birds on arable land
EF15 Reduced herbicide cereal crops followed by overwintered stubble
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