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Hope Farm

Skylark plot at Hope Farm 2

Skylark plot at Hope Farm

Image: The RSPB

There are far fewer grey partridges, skylarks, yellowhammers and corn buntings now than 30 years ago, largely because of changes in farming practices. We purchased an arable farm in Cambridgeshire in order to develop and trial farming techniques that can produce food cost-effectively and benefit wildlife. The results from this project have helped develop our messages and advice to farmers, government and the general public.

Project objectives

  • Increase the biodiversity on the site through creation of key habitats such as skylark plots, wild bird cover, nectar flower mixtures and floristic grass margins
  • Demonstrate that increasing biodiversity can be integrated into the management of a conventional arable farm without effecting the profitability of the site

Key dates so far

  • 1999: RSPB purchased the site
  • 2000: Baseline monitoring started
  • 2001: Skylark Plot Work trial starts
  • 2005: Skylark Plots Adopted in Entry Level Scheme
  • 2007: Hope Farm entered Entry Level Stewardship
  • 2010: 10-year anniversary of purchase - farmland bird numbers have more than doubled

Work planned or underway

During the next five years our objectives for the site will expand to focus on

1.     Maximising biodiversity

2.     Maintaining a profitable business

3.     Responding to climate change by reducing our footprint by 15 per cent

4.     Reducing diffuse pollution

Results

  • Hope Farm has increased wheat yields by approximately 1tonne per hectare since 2000 and maintained profitability. Oilseed rape and field bean yields also compare favourably with similar sized farms in eastern England.
  • Hope Farm's Farmland Bird Index has increased by 200 per cent. This rise has been driven by helping species that have declined nationally, such as grey partridge, skylark, linnet and yellowhammer
  • Farmland birds have increased because we have provided a package of agri-environment options designed to increase the area of in-field nesting habitat, winter seed food and insect-rich foraging habitat
  • We have used Hope Farm to find new ways of helping birds to breed successfully on commercial farmland. One example is the skylark plot, which was first trialled at Hope Farm. Two skylark plots per hectare have been proven to boost nesting opportunities for skylarks in areas dominated by winter cereals.

Who to contact

Ian Dillon
Farm Manager - Hope Farm
E-mail: ian.dillon@rspb.org.uk

Partners

Research partners include CAER, CEH, ADAS, BTO, Cranfield University

Funding

Become a Hope Farm Donor to help fund the research work - follow link on right