Defra-approved 10-year Wildlife Plot mix will help farmers make space for nature - Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

A new wildlife cover crop seed mix, which promises to be one of the best yet for biodiversity, has been developed by scientists at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). The ‘Wildlife Plot’ mix is available through the government-funded Sustainable Farming Incentive Test and Trial pilot scheme and is expected to be incorporated into the future Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS), enabling farmers to make space for nature alongside modern farming.

Dr Francis Buner, GWCT senior conservation scientist, who co-designed and trialled the seed mix at the GWCT’s PARTRIDGE project at Rotherfield Estate in Hampshire, in collaboration with Oakbank Game and Conservation, said: “I’m delighted that Defra has recognised the potential for this measure to significantly boost biodiversity. Many of the wild bird and pollinator mixes currently available are limited in what they can deliver. They often contain less than 10 species of plant, predominantly non-natives or cultivars, and need to be re-established at least every other year, leaving a big gap with no cover, food or shelter in spring and into early summer. Whereas the Wildlife Plot has a minimum of 20 species, mostly native perennials, providing food and nesting habitat for insects and birds all year round. If they are established correctly, Wildlife Plots will be good for up to ten years, avoiding the time and expense of cleaning the ground and drilling every one to two years.”

The seed mix is based on years of research across Europe into the ideal combination of plants to maximise biodiversity. In studies carried out by GWCT ecologists, the ‘Advanced PARTRIDGE mix’, which was the prototype for the Wildlife Plot mix, was the best wild bird seed mix in the country for insects, both in quantity and variety of species.

Steve Moreby from the GWCT’s Farmland Ecology Unit said: “Both first- and second-year plots contained more of the key grey partridge chick food insects when compared to other mixes. This looks to be a very promising mix and we hope to sample more sites in 2022 to see how it performs on different soils, field and farm types.”

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Posted On: 17/03/2022

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