Include skylark plots in drilling plans to boost CFE

Incorporating skylark plots into autumn drilling plans will give wildlife and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment a helping hand this coming season.

The RSPB and NFU advisers are urging farmers to consider putting in skylark plots by turning off the drill for a short time during sowing. For crops that are already drilled, growers can spray out patches instead.

Skylark plots are small, uncropped patches in cereal fields allowing the birds to forage when crops become too dense for them. Skylark populations have halved since 1970, but this simple measure has been proved to boost breeding productivity by up to 50%.

Richard Winspear, RSPB’s head of farmland advice, said: “Farmers across the UK who are sowing overwintering crops should consider this option which is proven to provide benefits for wildlife.

“They are very simple to deliver – the drill can either be switched off during drilling or the patches can be sprayed out afterwards – and they require less than one-third of 1% of total land area.

NFU countryside adviser Andrea Graham added: “Under Entry level Stewardship skylark plots are one of the best-paying options for the area of land they occupy and are starting to become more common in arable fields across the country.

“Now that skylark plots can be sprayed out this is a more practical option for farmers. They are one of the key target options in the campaign so, the more we see in our countryside, the more successful the campaign will be.”

Work on developing the plots has found the ideal number is 2/ha and they should be sited away from the edge of the field. Typical plots are 4mx4m.