UK: Wildflower boost to pollinator food sources

Belinda Bailey in a Syngenta Operation Pollinator Annual Wildflower Mix field

Belinda Bailey in a Syngenta Operation Pollinator Annual Wildflower Mix field - Credit: Archant

An initiative which provided wildflower seeds to farmers is set to boost the area of UK farmland dedicated to pollen and nectar wildflowers by up to 400 hectares this year.

The Syngenta Operation Pollinator Annual Wildflower Seed offer was run in partnership with the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) and seed suppliers, Kings.

Syngenta environmental initiatives UK manager Belinda Bailey said the initial offer of 350 seed packs of the purpose-designed annual wildflower mix, along with the full agronomic support to help farmers establish the valuable new ecological habitat, was more than exceeded.

Following positive uptake from the launch at Cereals 2014, held this year at Duxford in Cambridgeshire, a further 50 packs were made available, which have now sold out.

“The willingness of so many farmers to get involved in the project highlights the industry’s efforts to restore habitats for bees and other important wild pollinators,” she said. “This autumn’s conditions have been ideal for the sowing and establishment of wildflowers.”


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Ms Bailey advised growers to broadcast the annual wildflower seed onto the surface of a fine seedbed, and roll the seedbed to achieve good seed to soil contact.

Operation Pollinator trials and growers’ experience have shown annual wildflowers are relatively easy to establish alongside conventional cropped farmland, using the same techniques, timing and cultivation equipment as establishing winter oilseed rape crops.

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The annual wildflower mix may be sown on fallow land used for the purpose of crop diversification and Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) within the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

Sam Durham of the CFE believes the success of the joint venture paves the way for a wider industry initiative in 2015, to address some of the challenges laid down by the National Pollinator Strategy.

“Annual wildflowers can play an incredibly important role in feeding pollinators, alongside other ecological features, including perennial pollen and nectar mixes, hedgerows and grass margins,” he said.

“Farmers have been extremely successful in providing pollinator friendly habitats for food and overwinter nest sites- to the point where the populations of some bee species have been increasing in recent years.

“This joint initiative with CFE and Operation Pollinator fully supports our efforts to encourage even more farmers to get involved, and helping to create a more diverse range of habitats on farmland across the UK. It is an extremely powerful demonstration that productive commercial farming and positive ecological management can co-exist in the same field.”

Richard Barnes of Kings added: “The Operation Pollinator Annual Wildflower mix we have put together has been carefully selected to provide a prolonged flowering period and a sustained supply of food for pollinating insects. Growers get immense pride in the in the visual colour it creates, along with a powerful public perception benefit for the farming industry.

“It is based on sound ecological research of pollinator activity and has been extensively trialled on farms as part of a Syngenta project to enhance growers’ oilseed rape yields. The growers involved have found it relatively easy to establish and manage the margins, with extremely positive results in pollinator activity and crop performance.”

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