A fascinating experiment
Hope Farm’s Assistant Farm Manager Georgina Bray answers our questions.
What’s the project Hope Farm is participating in?
We’re taking part in a Defra-funded project, run by Rothamsted Research, one of the oldest agricultural research institutions in the world, and the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology. The project is looking at the effects of in-field pollinator strips against the more traditional pollinator margins, which are already funded by Countryside Stewardship for farmers.
What’s different about this approach?
At the moment, wildlife-friendly farming is often coined as “picture frame farming”. This means that floristic margins – and other means to conserve pollinators and nature in general – are kept to the edge of the field, while the centre is reserved for crop production, inadvertently excluding beneficial insects. The new method involves placing flower strips through the middle of the field, to help pollinators and predators of crop pests spread across the whole field, rather than restricting their potential benefits to the field edge.
What’s being used to measure its success?
Hope Farm is one of 15 farms that are being used as experimental sites over a five-year period. Researchers will be looking to see if there are any benefits to crop yields from drawing invertebrates into the centre of fields using the in-field pollinator strips.
Pest control and improved yields
What are the expected outcomes?
It’s hoped that by creating flower-rich habitats through the middle of the field, we’ll see enhanced pest control by insect predators and parasites using these strips. We also hope to see improved yields in pollinating crops as a result of improving pollinating insect access to the whole field.
What species will you expect to see a lot of?
We’re hoping to find a diversity of pollinators and insect predators. Solitary bees, long-tongued bumblebees, hoverflies, moths, butterflies and all sorts of pollinators could be found in these flower strips. Parasitic wasps, spiders and other natural controls of crop pests might make home there as well.