WILD BIRD seed mixes available under the Entry Level Scheme should not be regarded simply as a free source of game cover, growers are told.
While many mixes can provide a good habitat for game birds, growers need to be sensible about where they place them, said Richard Barnes, game and cover crops manager for Kings.
“Wild bird seed mixes can enhance shooting, but they are not game cover for free. Growers must carefully choose where they’re needed.”
Indeed, Mr Barnes believes these seed mixes should be treated as a specific crop and managed correctly within the various restrictions imposed on their use.
“The biggest problem with these mixes is weed control. At the moment you can only apply a herbicide during their establishment, any other applications require a derogation.”
Selecting mixes with good weed competitiveness or staggered sowing dates may be more important in such situations, he said.
Insect pests can be another problem. For example, kale, which is found in a typical wild bird seed mix with triticale and quinoa can suffer significant damage from flea beetle, he noted.
But DEFRA are reluctant to allow the use of insecticides on such mixes, unless there is a real problem, he said.
Many of the ELS options could also have benefits for crop agronomy. Establishing strips of tussocky grasses around field margins can reduce brome and blackgrass encroachment into the crop if strips are managed correctly, he noted.
Phacelia and mustard are ideal for use as a green manure on set-aside to prevent soil erosion as well as providing wildlife benefits, he added.