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Managing uncropped land in order to enhance biodiversity benefits of the arable farmed landscape - LK0971

This project is intended to identify new options for farmers to achieve desired biodiversity targets and meet other environmental objectives through the targeted management of discrete areas of uncropped land within the farmed landscape. These could complement existing margin and in-crop encouragement of biodiversity but our hypothesis is that these areas (by producing a mosaic of ‘biodiversity crops’ and commercial crops), can achieve, at the landscape level, the significant and measurable increases in biodiversity required by society. Farmers would welcome the ability to concentrate their business objective of making positive financial margins through responsibly and efficiently managed main cropping areas whilst providing the biodiversity benefits also required from surrounding uncropped or less productive land. The main focus will be on developing approaches compatible with current environmental management options but the results and new understanding obtained will also help to inform policy decisions on future enhancement schemes. More specifically, the project will examine the relationship between the scale and distribution of land managed for biodiversity and the biodiversity benefits.

Farmland biodiversity has suffered as a consequence of agricultural intensification over the last 40 years with declines recorded in numbers of farmland birds, mammals, butterflies, beneficial insects, annual arable wildflowers and amphibians. Biodiversity is acknowledged as a key test and an essential component of sustainable development (England biodiversity strategy: Annual stock take 2003-2004, Defra January 2005). As such, its decline is recognised to be of global importance by the international community.

Overall objective:
To provide evidence that through management of uncropped land for biodiversity increases in key indicator biodiversity species can be obtained without compromising economically sustainable crop production.

Specific objectives:
1 To determine, through a literature search and from current and recently completed research, the key parameters in the management of uncropped land with greatest potential to maximise specific key biodiversity species.
2 To measure the impact of scale of uncropped land on the abundance of key biodiversity species.
3 To measure the impact of heterogeneity of vegetation on uncropped land on the abundance of key biodiversity species.
4 To measure the impact of distribution of uncropped land on the abundance and distribution of key biodiversity species.
5 To measure the impact of food resources on species further up the food chain.
6 To measure the cost of the management of uncropped land in order to optimise specific key biodiversity species.
7 To provide guidance to government and the industry, with the assistance of simple regression based models, on the scale, heterogeneity, distribution of vegetation and its management of uncropped land in order to optimise biodiversity on conventionally managed arable farms.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2005

To: 2010

Cost: £503,701
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Home Grown Cereals Authority, Dow Agrosciences Ltd, The Arable Group, Cotswold Seeds Ltd, Processors and Growers Research Organisation, Rothamsted Research (BBSRC), Bayer CropScience Ltd, Arable Group (obo Farmers), Du Pont (UK) Ltd, British Trust For Ornithology, BASF plc, Game & Wildlife Conservancy Trust, The Arable Group - dummy, Syngenta
Environmental Protection