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Why farming matters

Moorland landscape with heather in August

Image: Andy Hay

Three-quarters of the land in the UK is farmed. Food production is a vital activity on which we all depend.

Farming is of fundamental importance for wildlife. It provides breeding and feeding habitats for birds and other animals and plants.

Agriculture can be good or bad for the environment, depending on the land management. For example, the soil on a farm can be managed so that it stores, filters and recycles carbon, rainwater and nutrients, or so that it erodes, loses fertility or compacts, losing its value.

Hedges can give food and shelter for birds and other wildlife, or be barren and sparse. The fields themselves can be managed to provide food and habitat for farmland wildlife at the same time as producing crops or livestock.

The RSPB believes that we can develop agricultural and trade systems that meet our need for food without reducing these other benefits of farming.

Farming in the UK has changed dramatically since the post-war era, when food production was of key importance. Farming policy encouraged this, often at the expense of wildlife.

We now have some of the most sophisticated and productive farming in the world, and food shortages are thankfully things of the past. An unintended consequence of this has been a reduction in other countryside qualities that we need and value: wildlife, landscape character, water and soil quality.

The RSPB believes that we can develop agricultural and trade systems that meet our need for food without reducing these other benefits of farming.

A countryside full of birds

Farmland birds have three main needs if they are to survive and flourish:

  • a safe place to nest 

  • food in spring and summer for their growing chicks

  • food and shelter over the winter.

We are working to help farmers provide these requirements for birds on their land by offering information about what birds need and what can be done on different types of farm.

We work alongside government and farming organisations to develop and implement agri-environment schemes that help pay farmers to manage land for wildlife

How you can help

At Hope Farm, we're developing farming techniques that will benefit wildlife.

The Farmland Bird Indicator

Farmland birds are used as an indicator of the general quality of the farmed environment. Find out more about the Farmland Bird Indicator and why it exists. More...

The Farmland Bird Indicator

The explanation for farmland bird declines

Research into the declines of some species of farmland birds have shown that there is no single reason, but instead a combination of factors. More...

The explanation for farmland bird declines