A blog by Chris Bailey - RSPB Scotland's advisory manager

RSPB Scotland has extended its relationship with Soil Association Scotland, Scottish Forestry and Scottish Water to deliver the Farming with Nature Programme for another year. Originally the programme was due to run for just two and a-half years jointly funded by the partners and through the Scottish Government Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KITF).  

Farming with Nature aims to encourage more farmers and crofters to generate on-farm and wider ecological benefits though exploration and adoption of innovative farming methods. The knowledge transfer took the form of a series of 27 expert-led events involving the direct participation of over 560 farmers and crofters: on farm demonstrations, evening meetings, walk and talk events, year-long investigations, signposting, and the production of supporting resources.

Photo from one of the peatland events

The Farming with Nature events over the past few years covered a range of subjects aimed at tackling issues affecting farming and biodiversity. These included how to restore peatland, reduce pesticide use on grasslands and livestock, management of species-rich grasslands, how to maximise the use of agri-environment and greening options to support farmland birds and other wildlife and rush and soil management. Events have focused on a range of priority species including Curlew, Lapwing and Corn Bunting.

Map of where we have held events (red dots) and where the participants have come from (yellow dots)

Evaluation of the project undertaken by Soil Association Scotland demonstrated that

  • 93% of participants gave the usefulness of information provided at events a high rating.
  • 68% of participants had a more positive attitude towards farming and biodiversity and 56% towards farming and climate change.
  • 88% pledged to adopt a new nature friendly management practice as a result of participating. Of those surveyed after 6 months 76% had implemented a change.

In October 2019 Farming with Nature held a conference entitled “Farming with Nature showcase: working with birds, bees and trees”. 60 landowners attended the event hosted at the Rottal Estate in Glen Clova, north of Kirriemuir in Perthshire. Delegates heard from four passionate farmers who summarised how they had integrated their environmental and wildlife land management alongside their wider farm businesses. They were also taken on a field visit around the estate to examine their landscape scale work targeted at waders, fresh-water pearl mussels, pollinators and peatland. We also were shown tree planting that had been done to reduce water running off the hill, riparian planting to reduce diffuse pollution and a project to re-meander a section of the Rottal burn.

Over the course of the next year we are proposing to run a further 10-12 events around the country targeting new demonstration farms, link to Soil Association’s pulse grazing work, hold another conference in the autumn and continue to develop pollinator habitats on one of the demonstration farms.

More information on the conference and the Farming with Nature programme can be found here on the Soil Association Scotland website. Events will also advertised on the website.