21 June 2002

Wild bird mix cost-effective

SOWING strips of a kale, quinoa and cereal mix will suit the dietary requirements of most farmland birds and help to alleviate high winter mortality, a DEFRA-funded research project carried out at The Allerton Trusts farm at Loddington, Leics, shows.

Alastair Leake says planting a wild bird mix under the Country-side Stewardship Scheme entitles growers to £510/ha, making it worthwhile in many situations.

But he points out that kale, wheat and quinoa have all been bred by man, so respond to inputs. "Existing rules limit growers to applying just 30kg/ha of nitrogen, when using more fertiliser would actually produce far more bird food."

Nitrogen trials at Loddington showed that with 90kg/ha of N, 10 times more bird food resulted. "It should be permissible to "grow" these crops to get the maximum benefit."

Leaving set-aside in natural regeneration provides no food for birds in winter, says Mr Leake. "Left to its own devices, nature doesnt always increase biodiversity." &#42

Birds would benefit greatly if sown food sources could receive extra N, says Allerton Trusts Alastair Leake.