Farmers and land managers can play a pivotal role in enhancing opportunities for biodiversity, they are key to achieving and maintaining a rich and varied natural environment.
“The UK BAP has Action Plans for 82 priority species – including the skylark, the tower mustard and the adonis blue butterfly; and 9 priority habitats, including cereal field margins, ancient species-rich hedgerows and upland hay meadows that are associated with farming or agriculture in England .” Working with the Grain of Nature, A biodiversity strategy for England, Defra, 2002.
Durham Farmland Birds and Mammals Action Plan identifies objectives and actions for priority species within the Durham BAP area.
How to help biodiversity on the farm:
- Produce a whole farm management plan.
This will identify habitats and wildlife on the farm and suggest conservation actions and management advice. LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) have an online audit which can help improve farming practices against the standards of Integrated Farm Management
- Manage hedgerows for biodiversity.
Manage hedgerows on a 2 or 3 year rotation , avoid hedge-trimming in the bird-nesting season, and cut in spring to leave berries for small mammals and birds in winter.
- Reduce the use of fertilisers and pesticides and keep then away from hedges, woodlands, field margins, ditches and watercourses.
- Retain areas for wildlife such as field margins, meadows ponds, scrub, trees and hedges, linking and buffering these if possible.
- Establish conservation headlands around arable fields to provide cover for small mammals or beetle banks across fields
- Carry out grassland management before mid-March to avoid ground-nesting birds, insects and reptiles and sow pollen and nectar mix into grass to encourage butterflies, bumblebees, insects and birds.
- Retain arable stubbles or provide a summer fallow as food and cover for birds
- Place set-aside to protect sensitive habitats such as woods, unimproved pastures and permanent watercourse from spray drift and nutrient run-off and to protect solids vulnerable to erosion.
Biodiversity Information Pack for Farmers
Durham Biodiversity Partnership, in conjunction with Tyne Tees Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, produced an information pack to help farmers improve their land to benefit wildlife.
The pack is a ‘first-stop’ shop, which brings together, key pieces of information on methods of farm management and will help farmers maximize the wildlife on their land.
The pack was launched in 2003 and sent to more than 500 farms between the rivers Tyne and Tees . It contained a range of leaflets and information sheets relating to species and habitats, as well as a contacts information list and a ‘Through the Year with Wildlife’ calendar – providing action points for wildlife-friendly farming.
Natural England plays a key role in encouraging farming to have a positive effect on wildlife. Through the Environmental Stewardship schemes – both Entry Level and Higher Level – farmers and land managers can gain access to advice and funding to implement wildlife-friendly farming.
DEFRA provide information and advice on land management and the environment. They also administer the single payment scheme.
Forestry Commision provides advice on planting and managing farm woodlands and administers the Woodland Grant Scheme.
Environment Agency can advise on managing water, soils and manure, and provides information on catchment sensitive farming andother farm management issues.
RSPB provides information on how to help birds on farmland and manage farm habitats to benefit wildlife. There is also a postcode look-up to find out which birds you might find on your farm.
Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) offers a range of services for farmers, landowners and others regarding biodiversity. These include; scheme applications, resource protection advice and species and habitat management plans.
Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) is a charity helping farmers and growers protect the environment through promoting the Integrated Farm Management (IFM) approach.
Farm Wildlife is a website designed to help farmers to help wildlife on their farm. It includes case studies, which outlines the experiences of farms doing conservation work and a discussion forum.
The Field Boundary Restoration Grant Scheme is run by Durham County Council on behalf of the Durham Hedgerow Partnership. It provides a source of financial assistance to farmers and landowners who wish to bring back into management existing hedges or to establish new hedges.