“Many of these are in response to what we’re being asked to do on our farms,” explains technical director, Keith Norman. “But some are due to rising input prices, or because we need to go through a learning exercise before we can benefit from them.”
Soil structure and fertility builders, such as clover, vetch and buckwheat, are examples of where more knowledge is required, he reckons.
Some of these crops are nitrogen builders, while others are nitrogen scavengers, or have a soil structure role, explains colleague Paul Cartwright. “We’re hoping they prove to be a cheap and cheerful way of establishing a cover crop and reducing nitrogen costs.”
The RSPB’s Richard Winspear highlights the importance of the “big three” for farmland birds – summer food, winter food and nesting sites. He says the wider the range of stewardship options that farmers can include, the greater the benefit.
“We’ve seen a great boost in nesting habitats and summer food, through hedge and field margin management.
“But winter food is important too, and options like over-wintered stubbles or wild bird seed mixtures address this issue well.”
A wetland feature on a dry arable farm with predominantly winter cropping is a great biodiversity boost, as well as potentially helping with resource protection, he adds. They can be built by widening and deepening an existing ditch and putting a bund at one end, he says.