HGCA launches new arable biodiversity guide

HGCA has launched a new practical guide to help growers decide measures they can introduce on farm to encourage biodiversity.

The 16-page guide looks at simple techniques to enhance on-farm biodiversity through the efficient use of land, without significantly affecting farm management and profitability.

It lists measures which farmers and land managers can use to provide a healthy environment for wildlife in areas that are less productive or awkward for machinery operation.

The free guide – Enhancing arable biodiversity through the management of uncropped land – is based on the findings of a five-year Farm4bio research project, co-funded by DEFRA, the HGCA and several agrichemical companies.

The project found that taking a minimum of 4% of land out of crop production was essential to increase farmland bird numbers, said Clare Stirling, HGCA research and knowledge transfer manager for natural resources.

“The bigger percentage of land that you allocate to biodiversity measures, the greater the benefits will be to farmland bird numbers,” she added.

Dr Sterling advised growers to look at the species they already have on their land before choosing options.

“If you are trying to encourage birds that reside in woodlands and hedgerows, you need to locate your options close to these boundaries,” she explained.

Crop margins need to be actively managed to provide food – flowers over the summer for insects and seeds for farmland birds in the winter, said Dr Sterling.

Flower-rich grassland and wild bird seed mixes were the minimum two types vegetation needed to encourage the full complement of insects through to birds, she added.

“To add value, other cover options include legume mixes, broad-leaved insect-rich cover, unfertilised and unharvested cereal headlands, skylark and lapwing plots and natural regeneration after early spring cultivation.”

The approaches included in the guide count towards Entry and Higher Level stewardship schemes in England and will count towards Campaign for the Farmed Environment targets.