Cereals 2010: New wild bird seed covers on show

New wild bird seed covers developed to help farmers achieve their CFE targets were on show at the event.

Classed both as an infield ELS option and a CFE voluntary measure, wild bird mixes are likely to prove popular, said Richard Barnes of game cover and conservation crop specialist Kings.

A new spring-sown mix, named Campaign, contains a blend of red, white and reed millet, triticale and linseed to provide a spread of food through the following winter. “It’s best drilled in 15-18in rows to give better access for birds, and the plants tiller better, providing a more robust stand,” said Mr Barnes.

If weeds were a problem, clopyralid or bromoxynil could be used to tidy up, he added. “It is also useful as a break where kale has predominated.”

An autumn-sown concept mix was also on display, aimed at heavy-land farmers. “95% of bird seed mixes are spring sown, but it can be a devil of a job establishing them. This provides a simple solution when farmers are drilling anyway.”

It contains barley, triticale, linseed, as well as wheat, kale and gold of pleasure, delivering a canopy suitable for brood-rearing through the summer and a good mix of farmland bird food through the winter.

Pollen and nectar mixes could also prove a good ELS in-field choice or CFE voluntary measure, provided they are looked after, said Mr Barnes. “Choose the right one and put it in the right place and it should last longer than the three years most people expect.”

Choosing a grass-free mix was a good start, otherwise the grass element tended to dominate and reduce the mix’s effectiveness after two to three years, he explained.

For the best results, any flower-containing mix should be cut hard in the first year. “Three or four times is fine – it helps plants to establish strongly.”

Thereafter, Mr Barnes advised topping half the area hard in the spring through to early summer to provide the most diverse habitat, alternating the halves each year.