FARMERS NEED to take the plunge and start farming wildlife and treat the environment as a new market.

That is the message from Marek Nowakowski of the Farmed Environment Company (FEC), which is staging the Crops/FEC conference “Wildlife is the business of farming” on Tuesday 7 February at Chilford Hall, Linton Cambridgeshire.

He believes that farmers can become as professional about “wildlife farming” as they are about more familiar crops, if they are given quality, practical environmental advice.

The Entry and Higher Level Stewardship Schemes present a host of opportunities and can be made to fit in with profitable farming systems, he said. Providing pollen and nectar should underpin nearly all habitat improvement, he noted.

“For starters, there’s £30/ha on offer within the ELS. In ELS you’ll earn 450 points for each hectare of winter bird food, which could generate £450/ha in grant aid.”

Compared to returns of around £650/ha and variable costs of £230/ha for a 10t/ha wheat crop, such schemes could compare quite favourably, he said – even more so if poorer land is taken into account, which may yield up to 20% less. He also believes that the one-off costs of establishing a wildflower area will pay for itself.

Adding environmental initiatives to a farm’s business plan also makes good sense politically, added FEC analyst, Robert Gooch. “It’s what the public is demanding. The UK – and in particular, England – is leading Europe in including environmental requirements within cross compliance.”

The annual FEC/Crops Conference is sponsored by Guild of Conservation Grade Producers, Frontier and Syngenta Crop Protection. For more information on the FEC, see www.farmedenvironment.co.uk

Click here to see the full conference programme, or email crops@rbi.co.uk, telephone 020 8652 4081 for more information and to book your place.