Researchers at Hope Farm, an RSPB demonstration farm in Cambridgeshire, found that changing to more wildlife-friendly farming techniques had a major positive impact on wildlife loss, with numbers of breeding farmland birds trebling, including threatened species such as linnets and skylarks.
In addition, species which were not originally present have started to breed in the area, including grey partridge, lapwing and corn bunting.
Butterfly numbers have also increased since 2001, with the populations of 24 species up by 213% in 2017.
On Hope farm, simple techniques, such as having wildflower margins around fields, sowing ‘bird cover’ to provide food for seed-eating birds, and allowing hedgerows to grow thick and dense to create safe nesting habitat all wildlife. These were supported by agri-environment schemes that support farmers to manage land to deliver environmental benefits
According to the RSPB report, this used just 10% of the arable land on the 180 hectare farm, while the the other 90% continues to grow commercial cereal crops such as wheat, barley and oilseed rape.y.
RSPB Hope Farm Manager, Ian Dillon said: ‘We have been able to demonstrate that, with the help of agri-environment schemes, it is possible for farmland wildlife to thrive alongside profitable crop production on an arable farm.’
Main image: ©Andy Hay