Arable wildlife scheme goes national


6 July 2001



Arable wildlife scheme goes national


By Alistair Driver

ARABLE farmers in England are to be paid to create wildlife habitats under the expansion of a regional scheme, the government has announced.

The Arable Stewardship Scheme is to be extended following the success of a three-year pilot scheme in East Anglia and the West Midlands.

Farmers will be rewarded for initiatives such leaving stubble to provide birds with winter food, maintaining headlands and spreading wild flower seeds.

It will come under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS), said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Friday (6 July).

Money to finance the Arable Stewardship Scheme will come from the CSS budget, which is increasing from 51m to 126m over six years.

While the cost of the new scheme will depend on uptake, it could put further pressure on the CSS which was oversubscribed in recent years.

Subject to EU Commission approval later this month, the Arable Stewardship Scheme will start on January 2002.

Junior Rural Affairs minister Elliot Morley said: “This is an important step forward in the drive to increase wildlife on Englands arable farmland.

“It shows what can be achieved when money is diverted away from production subsidies for farmers, towards payments for environmental work and rural development.”

DEFRA head of conservation management John Osmond said farms involved in the three-year pilot study had seen significant increases in wildlife.

Experts noted positive effects in a number of bird species, including lapwings, greenfinches and thrushes.

Numbers of bumblebees and other insects and a number of plants were also found to have benefited from the initiative.

Payments will be made to farmers who leave stubble over winter in their fields, and follow it with either spring-sown crops or by leaving it fallow.

Producers who combined winter stubble with leaving the field fallow were paid 540 a hectare under the pilot.

Payments will also be made for looking after headlands by not spraying areas at the side of fields nor using fertiliser there.

Cash is also available to producers who spread wild flower seed mixtures, providing feed for birds and pollen for insects.

A total of 220 farmers were involved in the pilot scheme, and of 17 options followed, seven will be incorporated into the CSS.

The CSS was introduced in 1991 and offers payment to landowners who make conservation part of their farming practice.

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