Arable Field Margins

Arable field margins are strips or blocks around arable fields that are managed specifically for the benefit of key farmland wildlife.

Arable field margin

Photo: Laurie Jackson

Why are they important?

  • They support rare and important arable plant species.
  • Wild flowers in arable margins provide pollen and nectar for invertebrates such as bumblebees and sawflies
  • They provide breeding and feeding habitat for farmland birds.
  • Field margins provide corridors through farmland along which animals can move; this will be important as the effects of climate change begin to be felt.

Arable Field Margins in Sussex

Important arable plant species are now restricted to a few locations, usually in the less well-cultivated margins of fields on the South Downs. Farmland birds are widely distributed across the farmed landscape however populations are lower now than 20 years ago.

What are the threats?

  • Intensification of arable production, including the use of herbicides and insecticides.
  • A shift from spring to winter cropping resulting in a loss of winter stubbles and a reduction in undersown area.
  • Reduced rotation of crops with grass leys and fallow land.
  • Ploughing closer to the edges and management of edges to keep them tidy.
  • Removal of boundaries features to enlarge fields.

Some associated species

  • Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra
  • European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur
  • Shrill Carder Bee Bombus sylvarum
  • Large Garden Bumblebee Bombus ruderatus
  • Red Hemp Nettle Galeopsis angustifolia
  • Narrow-fruited Cornsalad Valerianella dentata


Photo: Laurie Jackson

Advice on arable field margins

Natural England
Sustainable Arable Farming for an Improved Environment

Sussex Targets

Biodiversity Action Reporting System Website