5 June 1998

Red tape ties wildlife strips

BUREAUCRACY rather than practicalities are the main disincentive to establishing grass strips around arable fields to protect wildlife and the environment.

That is the view of John Drysdale who farms 420ha (1038 acres) at Kilrie near Kirkaldy, Fife and hosted the launch of National Farm Walk Week in Scotland recently.

"We dont get any area aid on the 2m margins, we have to recalculate and resubmit IACS forms, and we have to complete Countryside Premium Scheme forms too. It would help if we could do everything on one form."

The 2m (6.6ft) grass margins at Kilrie were sown under the CPS with tussocky grasses, including red fescue and coltsfoot. Tillering is promoted in the perennial grasses by mowing once a year, preventing weeds from invading the crop.

The result is a network of wildlife corridors around the cereals and oilseeds cropping, linking the managed hedgerows.

"It is a very cost-effective way of controlling weeds and harvesting is much easier, as cleavers and thistles are kept out of the combine," notes Mr Drysdale. Indeed, he is so pleased with the benefits he plans to put grass margins around all fields, even though that will exceed his CPS allowance.