Preserving wildlife along field margins can boost agricultural productivity is the conclusion of a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.  The experiment was carried out on the Hillesden Estate, Buckinghamshire, a flat site with heavy clay soils.

There was a simple rotation of autumn-sown first wheat followed by break crops of either oilseed rape or field beans, then back into wheat.  Both pollinators and pest predators can be encouraged by wild field margins. This is a summary of what the team reported:

We replicated two treatments removing 3 or 8% of land at the field edge from production to create wildlife habitat in 50–60ha patches over a 900ha commercial arable farm, and compared these to a business as usual control (no land removed).  

It was found that creation of wildlife habitat resulted in no loss to the farmer in terms of the monetary or nutritional energy yield across a typical 5-year arable crop rotation.

Our study has demonstrated that it is feasible to remove up to 8% of land from production on a large, intensively managed commercial farm to create a range of beneficial wildlife habitat and maintain yields of key arable crops critically important to food supply in northwest Europe.  Indeed our results indicate that yield and profitability of some insect-pollinated crops may even be increased by this approach.

Positive news for us all.  The full citation is:

Pywell, R. F. (2015).  Proc. R. Soc. B 282: 20151740.

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