1 March 2002

SUSTAINABLE FARMING: 1

IMPROVING BIODIVERSITY

Biodiversity occurs within fields, between fields and in the overall farm landscape. Recognising that range of scales will help farmers develop practices that help at all levels.

"The aim is to provide habitats and food for a wide range of organisms, so that they can complete their life cycles," says Nigel Boatman of CSL.

Within fields growers should be careful with insecticide use, manage field margins appropriately and provide non-crop habitats, such as beetle banks. Between fields, the management of hedgerows, grass strips or verges and woodland is important.

"Apply thresholds when spraying and choose the most selective product. Leave buffer zones at field margins and avoid both spray drift and fertiliser misplacement."

The overall farm landscape encompasses things like field size and the crop mosaic, Dr Boatman continues.

"Birds such as yellowhammers feed on oilseed rape, winter barley and winter wheat, so they need access to all three.

"Hares also need a variety of habitats to survive. But skylarks need an open area to be maintained."

Set-aside can be used to provide a good foraging and nesting habitat for birds and can be incorporated as a whole field, a margin strip or midfield strip, he notes. "But delay its destruction until June."

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