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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Extensive management of field margins on livestock farms benefits some invertebrate and bird groups in Devon and Somerset, England

Published source details

Defra (2007) Potential for enhancing biodiversity on intensive livestock farms (PEBIL). Defra report.


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Raise mowing height on grasslands to benefit birds Bird Conservation

A randomised, replicated, controlled trial on four farms in southwest England in 2003-6 (Defra 2007) found that 12, 50 ´ 10 m plots of permanent pasture cut to 10 cm in May and July did not attract more foraging birds than 12 control plots cut to 5 cm. Plots were cut twice in May and July, and grazed in autumn/winter. This study is also discussed in ‘Reduce management intensity on permanent grassland’, ‘Reduce pesticide or herbicide use generally’, ‘Undersow spring cereals’, ‘Reduce grazing intensity on permanent grasslands’ and ‘Plant wild bird seed or cover mixture’ .

 

Reduce chemical inputs in permanent grassland management Bird Conservation

A randomised, replicated, controlled trial on four farms in southwest England, in 2003-6 (DEFRA 2007), found that no more foraging birds were attracted to 12, 50 ´ 10 m plots of permanent pasture with no fertiliser impact, compared to 12 control (conventionally managed) plots. Experimental plots were managed in the same way as control plots except for the lack of fertiliser, and all plots were cut twice in May and July, and grazed in autumn/winter. This study also discusses several other interventions including ‘Reduce management intensity on permanent grasslands’.

 

Raise mowing height on grasslands to benefit farmland wildlife Farmland Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled trial from 2003 to 2006 on four farms in southwest England (Defra 2007) (same study as (Woodcock et al. 2007, Potts et al. 2009)) found that 50 x 10 m plots of permanent pasture cut to 10 cm in May and July did not attract more invertebrates or foraging birds than control plots cut to 5 cm. Plots were cut twice in May and July, and grazed in autumn/winter. There were twelve replicates of each management type, monitored over four years.

 

Undersow spring cereals, with clover for example Bird Conservation

A randomised, replicated, controlled trial on four farms in southwest England, in 2003-2006 (Defra 2007), found that 12, 50 ´ 10 m plots of undersown spring barley attracted more small passerines (dunnock Prunella modularis, wren Troglodytes troglodytes, European robin Erithacus rubecula, seed-eating finches and buntings) than 12 control (not-undersown) plots. In addition, dunnocks, but not chaffinches or blackbirds, nested in hedgerows next to the sown plots more than expected, with 2.5  nests/km, compared to less than 0.5 nests/km in hedges next to experimental grass plots. Experimental plots were sown with spring barley Hordeum vulgare and a grass and legume mix, whereas control plots were managed as silage - cut twice in May and July, and grazed in autumn/winter. This study is also discussed in ‘Reduce management intensity on permanent grassland’, ‘Reduce pesticide or herbicide use generally’, ‘Raise mowing height on grasslands’, ‘Reduce grazing intensity on permanent grasslands’ and ‘Plant wild bird seed or cover mixture’ .

 

Reduce management intensity on permanent grasslands for birds Bird Conservation

A randomised, replicated, controlled trial on four farms in southwest England, in 2003-2006 (Defra 2007), found that 50 ´ 10 m plots of permanent pasture cut just once in May or July or not at all during the summer and left unfertilised attracted more insectivorous and seed-eating songbirds than control plots (fertilised plots cut in May and July, as in conventional silage management). The preference was shown by dunnocks Prunella modularis, winter wren Troglodytes troglodytes, European robin Erithacus rubecula, seed-eating finches and buntings, and was particularly strong for plots left uncut in summer. There were twelve replicates of each management type. This study is also discussed in ‘Reduce pesticide or herbicide use generally’, ‘Undersow spring cereals’, ‘Raise mowing height on grasslands’, ‘Reduce grazing intensity on permanent grasslands’ and ‘Plant wild bird seed or cover mixture’.

 

Reduce pesticide or herbicide use generally Bird Conservation

A randomised, replicated, controlled trial on four farms in southwest England, in 2003-6 (DEFRA 2007), found that no more foraging birds were attracted to 12, 50 x 10 m plots of permanent pasture with no fertiliser impact, compared to 12 control (conventionally managed) plots. Experimental plots were managed in the same way as control plots except for the lack of fertiliser, and all plots were cut twice in May and July, and grazed in autumn/winter. This study is also discussed in ‘Reduce management intensity on permanent grassland’, ‘Undersow spring cereals’, ‘Raise mowing height on grasslands’, ‘Reduce grazing intensity on permanent grasslands’ and ‘Plant wild bird seed or cover mixture’ .

 

Reduce grazing intensity Bird Conservation

A randomised, replicated, controlled trial on four farms in southwest England in 2003-6 (Defra 2007) found that 12, 50 ´ 10 m plots of permanent pasture managed as conventional silage but without autumn/winter grazing did not attract more foraging birds than 12 control plots, managed identically but with autumn and winter grazing. Plots were fertilised and cut twice in May and July. This study is also discussed in ‘Reduce management intensity on permanent grassland’, ‘Reduce pesticide or herbicide use generally’, ‘Raise mowing height on grasslands’, ‘Undersow spring cereals’ and ‘Plant wild bird seed or cover mixture’ .

 

Reduce chemical inputs in grassland management Farmland Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled trial from 2003 to 2006 on four farms in southwest England (Defra 2007) (same study as (Woodcock et al. 2007, Potts et al. 2009)) found that 50 x 10 m plots of permanent pasture cut just once in May or July or not at all during the summer and left unfertilized supported greater numbers and more species of beetles (Coleoptera) in suction traps, true bugs (Hemiptera) and plant hoppers (Hemiptera: Fulgoroidea), as well as greater abundances of spiders (Araneae), crane and St Mark’s flies (Diptera) and more species of woodlice (Isopoda) than control fertilized plots cut in May and July (managed for silage). Small insectivorous birds (dunnock Prunella modularis, wren Troglodytes troglodytes and European robin Erithacus rubecula) and seed-eating finches (Fringillidae) and buntings (Emberizidae) preferred the less intensively managed treatments (particularly the plots uncut in summer) to control plots for foraging. There were twelve replicates of each management type, monitored over four years.

 

Undersow spring cereals, with clover for example Farmland Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled trial in 2003 to 2006 on four farms in southwest England (Defra 2007) (same study as (Potts et al. 2009, Holt et al. 2010)) found that 50 x 10 m plots of permanent pasture sown with spring barley Hordeum vulgare and a grass and legume mix attracted more bumblebees Bombus spp. and adult butterflies (Lepidoptera) than control plots. However undersown barley plots had either similar numbers (for suction trapped beetles (Coleoptera), ground beetles (Carabidae), spiders (Araneae), grasshoppers and crickets (Orthoptera), flies (Diptera), butterfly larvae or sawfly larvae (Hymenoptera: Symphyta), slugs (Gastropoda)) or fewer numbers (true bugs (Hemiptera), planthoppers (Auchenorrhyncha)) of other invertebrate groups than control plots. Control plots were managed as silage, cut twice in May and July, and grazed in autumn/winter. Small insect-eating birds (dunnock Prunella modularis, wren Troglodytes troglodytes and European robin Erithacus rubecula) and seed-eating finches (Fringillidae) and buntings (Emberizidae) preferred undersown cereal plots to control plots for foraging. Dunnock, but not chaffinch Fringilla coelebs or blackbirds Turdus merula, nested in hedgerows next to the sown plots more than expected, with 2.5 nests/km, compared to less than 0.5 nests/km in hedges next to experimental grass plots. There were twelve replicates of each management type, monitored over four years. More information on the use of these plots by bumblebees and butterflies is described in (Potts et al. 2009).

 

Reduce grazing intensity on grassland (including seasonal removal of livestock) Farmland Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled trial from 2003 to 2006 on four farms in southwest England (Defra 2007) (same study as (Woodcock et al. 2007, Potts et al. 2009)) found that 50 x 10 m plots of permanent pasture managed just like conventional silage but without autumn/winter grazing did not attract more invertebrates or foraging birds than control plots. Plots were fertilized and cut twice in May and July. Control plots were grazed in autumn/winter. There were twelve replicates of each management type, monitored over four years.

 

Plant wild bird seed or cover mixture Bird Conservation

A randomised, replicated, controlled trial on four farms in southwest England in 2003-2006 (Defra 2007) found that 12, 50 ´ 10 m plots of permanent pasture sown with a wild bird seed attracted more foraging songbirds (dunnock Prunella modularis, winter wren Troglodytes troglodytes, European robin Erithacus rubecula, seed-eating finches and buntings) than 12 control plots managed as silage (cut twice in May and July, and grazed in autumn/winter). Dunnocks, but not chaffinches Fringella coelebs or blackbirds Turdus merula, nested in hedgerows next to the sown plots more than expected, with 2.5  nests/km, compared to less than 0.5 nests/km in hedges next to experimental grass plots. Experimental plots were sown with a mix of crops including linseed and legumes. There were twelve replicates of each management type, monitored over the four years (2003-2006).

 

Reduce management intensity on permanent grasslands (several interventions at once) Farmland Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled trial from 2003 to 2006 in southwest England (Defra 2007) found that plots of permanent pasture cut just once in May or July or not at all during the summer and left unfertilized supported greater numbers and more species of beetles (Coleoptera) in suction traps, true bugs (Hemiptera) and planthoppers (Auchenorrhyncha), greater abundances of spiders (Araneae), craneflies (Tipulidae) and St Mark’s flies Bibio marci and more species of woodlice (Isopoda) than control fertilized plots cut in May and July, as in conventional silage management. Small insectivorous birds (dunnock Prunella modularis, wren Troglodytes troglodytes and robin Erithacus rubecula) and seed-eating finches (Fringillidae) and buntings (Emberizidae) preferred extensively managed treatments (particularly the plots uncut in summer) to control plots for foraging. Experimental plots (50 x 10 m) were sown on four farms. There were twelve replicates of each management type, monitored over four years. Results from the same study are also presented in (Pilgrim et al. 2007, Woodcock et al. 2007, Potts et al. 2009).

 

Plant wild bird seed or cover mixture Farmland Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled trial from 2003 to 2006 in southwest England (Defra 2007) found that plots of permanent pasture sown with a wild bird seed mix attracted more foraging songbirds (dunnock Prunella modularis, wren Troglodytes troglodytes, European robin Erithacus rubecula, seed-eating finches (Fringillidae) and buntings (Emberizidae)) than 12 control plots, managed as silage (cut twice in May and July, and grazed in autumn/winter). Dunnocks, but not chaffinches Fringella coelebs or blackbirds Turdus merula, nested in hedgerows next to the sown plots more than expected, with 2.5 nests/km compared to less than 0.5 nests/km in hedges next to experimental grass plots. Twelve experimental plots (50 x 10 m) were sown on four farms with a mix of crops including linseed Linum usitatissimum and legumes. There were twelve replicates of each management type, monitored over four years. This study was part of the same experimental set-up as (Pilgrim et al. 2007, Potts et al. 2009, Holt et al. 2010).

 

Reduce fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide use generally Farmland Conservation

A randomized, replicated, controlled trial from 2003 to 2006 on four farms in southwest England (Defra 2007) found that no more foraging birds were attracted to twelve 50 x 10 m plots of permanent pasture with no fertilizer, compared to 12 control (conventionally managed) plots. Experimental plots were managed in the same way as control plots except for the lack of fertilizer, and all plots were cut twice in May and July, and grazed in autumn/winter. There were twelve replicates of each management type, monitored over four years.