Harvest starts

It has a busy time over the last few weeks. Harvesting started on 28/7/08 with oilseed rape obliterated within a four hour period by the contractor’s two new combines. Yields, estimated from the combines, show that the broadcast rape outperformed the minimum tilled rape however because of heavy wood pigeon damage neither are particularly impressive. Light cultivations started the following day on the fields harvested. We are waiting patiently for the wheat to be harvested, hopefully within the next two weeks as long as the showery weather stops. The spring beans will be harvested at the start of September if everything goes according to plan.  Elsewhere on the farm, the contractor has cut a number of the grass margins and pollen and nectar mixtures to aid establishment.


The researchers are currently studying the recently completed bird maps from this years breeding season to calculate how many pairs of each species were present on the farm. These maps are produced following intensive monitoring from April through to the start of July. Early indications suggest that there have been some winners and losers compared with last years figures but we will have to wait another month to see the final figures and see how this effects the Hope Farm Farmland Bird Index which has risen by 89% since 2000. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of yellow wagtails using the farm this year and we had a number of fledged chicks flying around the fields.

Farm Wildlife Margin Event held at the farm

A Farm Wildlife  event was organised for farmers, advisers, and ecologists focusing on Arable Field Margin management on 1 July.  The idea was to bring together these groups to discuss the ecology and practical management of field margins, and ensure that the best wildlife habitats can be delivered through existing funding mechanisms.  This was one of a series of events, which are unique in bringing farmers and ecologists together, in the hope of improving the understanding of how habitats help wildlife and the practical issues of getting the management right.
At this event, the main messages were:
 ·a diversity of habitats within the field margins will help the  greatest range of biodiversity - strips of rough grass margins,  wildflower margins, pollen and nectar strips, wild bird cover  strips, and cultivated uncropped margins will broaden the  opportunities for wildlife to thrive on an arable farm;
 ·management in the first year of establishing perennial margins  should focus on weed control to minimise the need for  management in future years;
 ·management should be avoided during the nesting season  (April-August) - if management is required during this period  (eg for weed control in the first year of establishment, or to  prolong flowering season of pollen and nectar mixtures), then  it is best to cut regularly to keep the sward too short to  attract nesting birds or leverets;
 ·grasses tend to out compete wildflowers in perennial margins,  and management is needed to suppress the grasses in order to  maintain the wildflowers – scarification worked well in trials  at Hope Farm, but is not currently allowed under funding  schemes;
 ·scrub is a valuable habitat for wildlife that is currently  discouraged by the regulations for keeping land in 'Good  Agricultural and Environmental Condition' - the group vowed to  lobby for changes to regulations to enable more flexible  management of margins.

Visit :  http://www.farmwildlife.info/  to find out more about this event, look at other farming case studies or to join in the discussion forum.