A new study, published this month (June 2023) by researchers at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, has found continued declines in invertebrates across UK cropland.

The authors of the study used citizen science data on UK invertebrate populations to identify trends in invertebrate numbers over time (1990-2019) and across regions exhibiting differing levels of cropland cover (including both horticulture and arable cropland). They found a general decline in invertebrate numbers, with the greatest decline seen in regions with the highest levels of crop cover. The authors concluded that, despite attempts to improve the impacts of agriculture on biodiversity through policy and management of croplands over the past 30 years, current cropland management practices are failing to protect invertebrate species. They go on to suggest that the changes in agricultural policy brought about by Brexit offer an opportunity to implement new policies that could drive improvements in farmland ecosystem restoration, in turn benefitting biodiversity and wider society (Mancini et al., 2023).

With the deadline for this year’s round of Mid Tier Countryside Stewardship (CS) applications just around the corner, this paper got us thinking about which CS options could help boost invertebrate populations on cropland. We’ve done our best to compile a list below of the most relevant options available through CS that support invertebrate species on arable and horticultural land:

Countryside Stewardship option:

Further information:

How the option supports invertebrates:

AB1: Nectar flower mix


Provides areas of flowering plants to boost essential food sources for beneficial pollinators such as bumble bees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

AB3: Beetle banks


It provides nesting and foraging habitats for pollinators and beneficial insects which feed on crop pests.

AB6: Enhanced overwinter stubble


Provides undisturbed habitat for farmland wildlife including many pollinators.

AB7: Whole crop cereals


During the summer there will be foraging for pollinator species such as bees and other beneficial insects and a weedy stubble over winter will provide habitat for insects.

AB8: Flower-rich margins and plots


Provides habitat and foraging for invertebrates, including wild pollinators such as bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

AB9: Winter bird food


The flowering plants will benefit insects including bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

AB10: Unharvested cereal headland


There will be plants providing summer and winter foraging for important farmland pollinator species, such as bees and other beneficial insects. The weedy unharvested cereals will provide over-wintering habitat for insects.

AB11: Cultivated areas for arable plants


Provides areas of less densely vegetated ground for insects such as bumblebees, solitary bees and hoverflies visiting flowers and the bare ground created.

AB14: Harvested low input cereal


An open-structured cereal crop provides habitat for pollinator species, such as bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies, hoverflies and beneficial insects.

AB15: Two year sown legume fallow


Provides food for farmland wildlife, such as pollen and nectar for pollinators including bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

AB16: Autumn sown bumblebird mix


Provides important food sources for a range of nectar feeding insects, including butterflies, solitary bees, hoverflies and bumblebees.

BE1: Protection of in-field trees on arable land


Undisturbed standing and fallen deadwood will provide habitat for invertebrates.

GS3: Ryegrass seed-set as winter food for birds


Although designed to benefit buntings and other declining farmland birds, this option is also good for invertebrates.

GS4: Legume and herb-rich swards


Provides habitat and foraging for invertebrates, including crop pollinators.

OP2: Wild bird seed mixture


The flowering plants will benefit insects including bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies.

OP4: Multi species ley


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

OP5: Undersown cereal


Provides a habitat that benefits animals including invertebrates that forage within the under sown cereal crop.

WD3: Woodland edges on arable land


New habitat to support an increase in invertebrates.



Mancini Francesca, Cooke Rob, Woodcock Ben A., Greenop Arran, Johnson Andrew C. and Isaac Nick J. B. 2023 Invertebrate biodiversity continues to decline in cropland. Proc. R. Soc. B.2902023089720230897. http://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2023.0897