A national initiative designed to reverse the decline in bumblebee numbers across arable farmland has been launched by Syngenta Crop Protection.

Over 1000 farmers are being sought to join Operation Bumblebee, which aims to put essential pollen and nectar habitat back on farms and helps growers establish and manage it for best results.

The aim is to establish over 1000ha (2471 acres) of pollen and nectar habitat across the 1000 farms over three years.

Expertise has been provided by the Farmed Environment Company, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and independent entomologist Mike Edwards, the UK’s leading authority on bumblebees.

Each farm must commit to buying and establishing at least 1ha (2.47 acres) of specific Operation Bumblebee mix, costing 100/ha and containing a high proportion of red clover, trefoils and other flowering perennials, said project manager Simon Elsworth.

Results from a pilot scheme have been very encouraging.

“There was a 200% increase in bumblebee numbers from year one to year two, where specific legume margins where used.”

These environmental benefits had little or no effect on farm profitability, Mr Elsworth added.

“The margins are often sited on the least productive areas of the farm.

They also score points for both Entry Level Stewardship and Higher Level Stewardship, and the mix can be planted on set-aside land.”

Growers wishing to find out more about Operation Bumblebee should contact Syngenta’s environmental manager Geoff Coates on 07860 363 775.

For more detail of how Operation Bumblebee works on farm see next week’s Arable Section.

fwnews@rbi.co.uk