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Suffolk farmers 'leading the way' with pilot scheme to help birds and bees

PUBLISHED: 12:11 31 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:25 31 May 2019

Lord Gardiner with John Dyter at the woodland garden display at Suffolk Show 2019 which John devised in honour of Stephen Miles' year as president and in memory of his own late wife, Delia Keer  Picture: OLIVER ROGERS

Lord Gardiner with John Dyter at the woodland garden display at Suffolk Show 2019 which John devised in honour of Stephen Miles' year as president and in memory of his own late wife, Delia Keer Picture: OLIVER ROGERS

DEFRA/Oliver Rogers

A trial scheme through which farmers in Suffolk and Norfolk are encouraging birds and bees is showing great promise, a government minister said on a visit to the Suffolk Show.

Lord Gardiner at the Suffolk beekeepers' display at Suffolk Show 2019  Picture: OLIVER ROGERSLord Gardiner at the Suffolk beekeepers' display at Suffolk Show 2019 Picture: OLIVER ROGERS

Lord Gardiner, who is minister for pollinators and biosecurity, said the agri-environment trial, being piloted by 13 farmers in the region as part of a post-Brexit, post-Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 'public money for public goods' plan, was going well. The aim is to get UK farmers to incorporate environmental measures - which can be hard to translate into monetary value to taxpayers.

The peer, who lives at Wickham Skeith, near Eye, said the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) scheme could potentially be rolled out across the country as he met farmers participating in the pilot at the show.

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Between 2018 and 2019, farmers in the trial planted a total of nearly seven hectares more pollen and nectar rich habitats than before, bringing the total to 23.70 ha (58.6 acres) - an increase of almost seven football pitches.

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Results from the first two years show that the pollen and nectar plots in the scheme performed 15% better than conventionally managed plots, and winter bird food plots significantly outperformed conventional plots with quality scores 43% higher.

Trial results will feed into the development process for a new Environmental Land Management scheme. The government's aim is to incentivise farmers through a new land management scheme set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan.

"Suffolk farmers are leading the way, creating vital habitats for bees and pollinators which in turn benefits the crops grown in the region. Farmers participating in the Payments by Results pilot in particular have achieved wonderful results for nature and pollinators," said Lord Gardiner.

Graham Denny, who farms at Brewery Farm, Little Stonham, and is taking part in the trial said: "I was very happy to be invited to get a chance to benefit and shape a future scheme along with other like-minded farmers. Working with the Natural England team has been a great experience and I would like to thank all the staff for their professionalism and willingness to listen and learn from the growers and also to steer us in the right direction. It has been key to our enthusiasm to try and achieve our set goals

From left, Steve Podd (Suffolk FWAG adviser), Graham Denny (farmer) and bird ringer John Walshe  Picture: GREGG BROWNFrom left, Steve Podd (Suffolk FWAG adviser), Graham Denny (farmer) and bird ringer John Walshe Picture: GREGG BROWN

"To choose and grow your own mixes of flowers as you would a normal crop makes it more your own, giving it that extra TLC and seeing it flower, filled with bees, insects and wildlife makes your efforts very satisfying. Even better to share your highs and lows with great people with a passion for the wildlife on their farms, all sharing experiences to further this trial."

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