Farmers and others hoping to save a key source of independent agri-environmental research must make their views known quickly, according to a leading agricultural wildlife specialist.

Marek Nowakowski, of the Farmed Environment Company, believes too few people in the industry are aware of the extent of proposed cuts to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Consultation on plans to close four CEH sites including Monks Wood in Cambs, announced on 6 December 2005, ends on 15 February.

The proposals, which could lead to the loss of up to 40% of CEH staff working on biodiversity, will critically undermine the future of key experiments just when they are most needed, Mr Nowakowski said.

“Agriculture is now ‘green’, and more than ever farmers need genuine applied practical research not carrying the baggage of feathers and bunnies.”

CEH is one of the few truly independent sources of information on the interactions between farming and the environment, he pointed out.

“It has national experts with no axes to grind and a huge wealth of experience.

Along with English Nature it holds the national data sets on GB biodiversity.”

The centre is closely involved in the BUZZ and SAFFIE field margin projects.

And it is still doing follow-up work on the Farm Scale Evaluations, said to be one of the largest ecological experiments ever undertaken and the biggest field study of GM crops in the world.

“We need the industry to start making a noise as the die is not yet cast,” said Mr Nowakowski.

To make your views known write to Mr Rob Margetts, CEH consultation, NERC, Polaris House, Swindon SN2 1EU or visit www.nerc.ac.uk/consult/ceh/