GROWERS CHOOSING seed mixtures for field margins must ensure they use the best mix possible and should not be fooled into thinking that the cheapest will do.

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.

The main consideration should be pollen and nectar production and there are two types of mix that can provide this – one legume-based and the other wildflower-based, he said. He highlighted the key characteristics of each mix:

Legume mix:

  • 80% grass, red fescue, crested dogs tail and smooth stalked meadowgrass
  • 20% autumn-flowering red clover, Alsike clover birdsfoot trefoil and, on the right soils, sainfoin
  • Sown at 20kg/ha, cost is around £90/ha
  • Legumes likely to almost disappear by the fourth year, so a single sowing is not suited to a five-year scheme and definitely not suited to the 10-year Higher Level Scheme

Wildflower mix:

  • Benefits a wider range of species
  • 90% grasses
  • 10% perennials such as ox-eye daisy, knapweed, birdsfoot trefoil and musk mallow
  • Sown at 20kg/ha, cost is around £225/ha
  • Should last 10 years +

He also suggested another option based on a tussocky grass mixture of 30% cocksfoot plus tall, meadow and red fescues. Sowing at 20kg/ha, this would cost around £70/ha, but the cost of mowing to remove annuals and stop hedge encroachment must be added, he said.

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.