The launch of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment is on 5th November. The aim of the campaign is to promote voluntary management of farmland to 're-capture' set-aside benefits from a relatively small area of well located and positively managed land. It unites the key industry organisations - NFU, CLA, LEAF, FWAG, AIC, AICC, CAAV and GWCT- who are working in partnership with Defra and its agencies, Natural England and the Environment Agency, and the RSPB in order to deliver advice to farmers on how they might best retain and increase the environmental benefits provided by their farmland in a targeted and agronomically sensible way.
The campaign concentrates on three main themes
Given that RSPB has signed up to the Campaign our attention has turned to how our farm is delivering these objectives on our 169 hectares of arable farmland.
This is provided by a combination of 50% of the requirement made up by over-wintered stubbles and 50% by wild bird seed mixtures.
As the preceding wheat crop was sprayed with pre-harvest desiccant, the value of the stubble for seed-eating birds is only half of the value of ELS over-wintered stubbles, so we would need the equivalent of 10 ha (rather than 5 ha) per 100 ha of arable farmland to provide the full seed food requirement through stubbles. In addition, we have an additional 35 ha of stubbles created through broadcasting our oilseed rape. Our research on broadcast oilseed rape has demonstrated that although this is a valuable food resource in early winter it becomes less effective as the season progresses and the rape develops, so this is not included as part of our seed food provision.
Wild Seed Mixtures
1.7ha of wild seed mixtures around the farm providing seed food this winter to make up half of our seed food requirement. We have found spring-sown mixtures yield very poorly, so have tried autumn-sown mixtures, which means we also have crops established this autumn to provide sufficient seed food for next winter.
We have in excess of the required 1 ha of insect-rich habitat per 100 ha of arable farmland, made up of wildflower margins and pollen and nectar mixtures.
3km (1.8 hectares) of 6m flower rich grass margins. Some of these margins have been included within our ELS application whilst the remainder is part of the research trials.
Pollen and Nectar mixtures
Three different pollen and nectar mixtures covering 0.6ha have been sown as part of the ELS application.
c) In-field nesting habitat
One hundred plots will be sprayed out once the wheat emerges. This is an option RSPB first developed at Hope Farm and is proven to boost nesting opportunities for skylarks. This is well in excess of the 34 plots we would need to comply with the farmland bird package (20 plots per 100 ha of arable farmland).
2. Farmland wildlife
In addition to the benefits arising from the provision for farmland birds and buffering of watercourses, we also have approximately 6 ha of very low input grassland, which we are maintaining through ELS for the grassland plants and insects.
3. Resource protection
Grass margins alongside temporary and permanent watercourses
6m grass margins have been placed alongside the fields adjacent to the stream to reduce nutrient and soil run-off as well as providing valuable wildlife habitat. Margins were established by sowing a mixture of course grasses, were cut several times in the first year to aid establishment. The margins are now managed following Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) rules.
Winter Cover Crops
Following completion of the final autumn cultivations the fallow land left for spring beans was broadcast with mustard in mid October. A winter cover crop is included to prevent soil erosion and reduce nitrate leaching
For further information about the Campaign visit www. cfeonline.co.uk;
agri-environmental options case studies on http://www.farmwildlife.info/case/default.asp
Economics of wildlife-friendly farming http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/farming/advice/economics/index.asp
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