I hope many of you have been watching Sarah Raven’s recent programmes on Bees, Butterflies and Blooms on BBC 2. In the first programme, well known LEAF Demonstration Farmer, Duncan Farrington answers Sarah’s well founded concerns that modern agricultural crop production offers little room for pollinators, exemplified by shots of Duncan’s immaculate (to farmer’s eyes) crops of oilseed rape and wheat. He is working hard to establish wildflower mixtures in the 6 metre margins around his fields, a much more challenging prospect than straight grassy margins. Inherent fertility is the enemy of wildflowers and time will bring it down, but in the meantime, controlling pernicious weeds and aggressive grasses requires special management and we will follow Duncan’s efforts with interest.
Pollinators have really shot up the political agenda with Defra’s Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman putting an estimated £430 million value of pollinators to British agriculture. There is a mounting interest by gardeners and local authorities in providing suitable habitats for a wide range of beneficial insects but farmers ought to be leading the way on a scale that attracts attention. On many of the farms involved in this year’s Open Farm Sunday, pollination will be a major feature. We are pleased to be working with Syngenta, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and other experts on a national survey of pollinators. Open Farm Sunday continues to grow in stature by doing much more than just providing an enjoyable day out, by informing and educating about our responsible role in countryside management.
How about creating a buzz on your farm this June by getting involved in the pollinator survey and inviting your neighbours and local schools to your farm on the 17th June? How about also letting us know your experiences of establishing wildflower strips? Knowledge shared will benefit many more of us.
About the author
Stephen Fell is LEAF’s Chairman and Managing Director of the family farming business HR Fell and Sons Ltd, running a flock of 1000 sheep and growing root crops at Thorganby in the Vale of York. He is also Managing Director of Lindum Turf, a business growing and marketing a range of turf and specialist grass and wildflower products.