The Campaign for the Farmed Environment will help farmers boost bird numbers better than environmental stewardship, a leading agri-environment specialist has claimed.
Syngenta’s Geoff Coates said entry and higher-level stewardship schemes had probably been too diverse for farmers to easily identify which options would help boost birds and bee populations.
“A focus on pollen, nectar and wild bird seed mixes will make it easier,” he told Farmers Weekly at the British Crop Production Council congress in Glasgow.
Plant mixes producing pollen and nectar were good for bees, while wild bird seed mixes produced food for farmland birds, he said. But new research was looking at delivering benefits to both species from one mix.
The mix would be made up of species such as fodder radish, buck wheat, borage, triticale, red clover and bird’s foot trefoil, he added.
“Fodder radish is particularly good for both, producing pollen and nectar throughout the summer, but also a set of pods and seeds for winter bird food.
“The pods need to be broken a bit like peanut kernels, but when the seed is shed, it is good for small mammals too.”
Farmers wanted to use habitats that gave environment benefits and these mixes delivered, he said
That had been proven in the Operation Bumblebee project Syngenta had helped pull together. Pollen and nectar mixes were much better at attracting bumblebees than other habitats, such as tussocky grass, natural regeneration set-aside or farm-managed crops.
The project had trained over 500 farmers and resulted in over 1000ha of pollen/nectar mixes on farm, he added.
“We’re now hoping to roll it out over 10,000ha across Europe as Operation Pollinator in the next three years.”