With less than 4% of compulsory set-aside being of conservation value and a large percentage of land not being brought back into production, the NFU have said that the encouragement of farmland birds needs to be integrated into productive agriculture.
At a time of rising grain prices and mounting pressure on world food supplies, output should be optimised and forcing land out of production made no sense at all, commented NFU president, Peter Kendall.
“Nobody should be shedding any tears over the demise of set-aside. It is bureaucratic, delivers uncertain environmental benefits, and because of the growing of non-food crops as green fuels, it does not even mean that land is left fallow.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t find room for birds, or that the tremendous progress that has been made in reversing the decline in farmland birds will stop in its tracks.
“Most farmers are now integrating bird-friendly measures alongside and within productive cropping, rather than taking land out of production,” said Mr Kendall.
And, tangible environmental benefits can be achieved through these management activities, according to recent studies, partly funded by the RSPB.
Furthermore, populations of farmland birds have the potential to increase on efficiently farmed arable land, through techniques such as skylark plots and grass and wildflower field margins.