Cornwall farming and birds project
The Cornwall Birds and Farming Project aims to raise awareness as to how farming can practically integrate the needs of farmland wildlife with food production.
Some of Cornwall’s characteristic farmland birds have undergone declines over recent decades. Research has developed conservation measures to benefit many of these species. These are now included in UK agri-environment schemes.
If farmers can be helped to take up the right conservation measures and manage them in the right way, we will see an upturn in the fortunes of many farmland species of high conservation concern.
Duchy College has a critical role in equipping current and future land managers with the skills they need to meet the diverse demands on the region's landscape. There was therefore a common interest between Duchy College and the RSPB in helping to show how land-based industries, farming in particular, could practically integrate the needs of birds and wider wildlife into their businesses.
- Increase the awareness of farming and wildlife issues among students and wider community through events, the provision of materials and integration into various land management courses
- A key resource in developing this knowledge is the use of the College's commercial farm, which showcases positive environmental land management through 'best practice' and the demonstration of a range of options available in the English agri-environment schemes to benefit farmland birds in the region
- Positively contribute to the UK farmland bird index (an indicator to the health of the countryside, with a government public service agreement to reverse its decline)
- Contribution to the delivery of UK Biodiversity Action Plan targets
A range of land management practices which deliver real benefits for farmland wildlife have been integrated into the farming system at Duchy Home Farm. These include:
- Over-wintered stubbles
- Wild bird mixtures
- Low input permanent pasture
- Field corner management
- Buffer strips on grassland and cultivated land
- Skylark plots
Richard Griffiths, Duchy College Farm Manager, said: 'We have found all the environmental options we have chosen to demonstrate across the farm dovetailed well with our farming system and we haven’t experienced any major difficulties.
'In fact, in many cases these options have made our farming operations easier, as they have taken awkward field corners and margins out of production. It has also been an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to farmers and students various entry-level activities suited to a wide range of diverse situations.'
- Duchy Home Farm entered into the Entry Level of the Environmental Stewardship Scheme
- Students have become practically acquainted with new farming practices such as sowing and managing wild bird cover, pollen and nectar mixtures, grass margins etc.
The RSPB, via its Volunteer and Farmer Alliance Survey, carried out baseline breeding bird surveys in 2002 & 2008 on Duchy Home Farm to help guide the farm’s conservation management. 44 species have been recorded in the breeding season, five of which are 'red listed':
- House sparrow
- Song thrush
Duchy College hosted a number of events as part of the project, including:
- Two 'Farming and Birds for Cornwall' events for local farmers, agricultural advisers and Duchy College students to hear and see how the needs of priority farmland birds in Cornwall could be integrated into the local farming systems
- Two 'Make Birds Count' events to encourage people to get involved in bird surveys
- Poster showing the management practices being carried out on the College farm to benefit the priority farmland birds identified through their V&FA survey
- Regular articles on 'farming and wildlife' in the Duchy College Rural Business School newsletter, received by over 6,000 people working in agriculture in the region
If you are interested in finding out more about the project, visiting Duchy Home Farm or simply want some information, we’d be delighted to hear from you.
Duchy College is one of the leading land-based colleges in the country. Its Rural Business School leads sustainable rural change, through education and training, knowledge transfer and partnership. Duchy is part of the Cornwall College Group, one of the largest further and higher education colleges in the UK.