Conservation Evidence strives to be as useful to conservationists as possible. Please take our survey to help the team improve our resource.

Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Conservation Headlands: a practical combination of intensive cereal farming and conservation

Published source details

Sotherton N.W. (1991) Conservation Headlands: a practical combination of intensive cereal farming and conservation. Pages 373-397 in: L.G. Firbank, N. Carter, J.F. Derbyshire & G.R. Potts (eds.) The Ecology of Temperate Cereal Fields. Blackwell Scientific Publications,


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

Leave headlands in fields unsprayed (conservation headlands) Bird Conservation

A paired, replicated, controlled study in the 1980s in cereal fields in southern and eastern England, UK (Sotherton 1991), found that in each year 1983-6, the brood size of grey partridge Perdix perdix and/or pheasant Phasianus colchicus was higher on blocks of cereal fields with conservation headlands (6-10 and 4-7 chicks respectively) compared with normally sprayed headlands (3-8 and 2-3 chicks) (Sotherton & Robertson 1990). Breeding density of grey partridges on the Hampshire farm increased from 4 to 12 pairs/km2 between 1979 and 1986. No such increases were recorded on adjacent farms where pesticide regimes remained unchanged.

 

Leave headlands in fields unsprayed (conservation headlands) Farmland Conservation

A paired, replicated, controlled study in the 1980s in cereal fields in southern and eastern England (Sotherton 1991) found higher plant species richness (on average 7 vs 2 species/0.25 m2), biomass (10 vs 1 g/0.25 m2) and percentage weed cover (14% vs 3%) in conservation headland plots compared with fully sprayed headland plots on one Hampshire farm. Several species of rare arable weeds occurred more frequently and in higher abundance in conservation headlands. Total numbers of chick-food items, true bugs (Heteroptera), sawflies (Tenthredinidae) and butterfly/moth (Lepidoptera) larvae, and beetles (Coleoptera) were higher in conservation headlands on the Hampshire farm ((Rands 1985), Sotherton 1989), and butterfly/moth abundance was higher in field margins adjacent to conservation headlands with 2-4 more species observed there ((Rands & Sotherton 1986), (Dover et al. 1990), Dover 1991). Examination of the digestive tract of polyphagous beetles (beetles that feed on many types of food) revealed that a higher proportion of beetles were better fed in conservation headlands. In every year 1983-1986 in southern and eastern England, the brood size of grey partridge Perdix perdix was higher on blocks of cereal fields with conservation headlands (6-10 chicks respectively) compared with conventionally sprayed headlands (3-8 chicks) (Sotherton & Robertson 1990). Breeding density of grey partridges on the Hampshire farm increased from 4 to 12 pairs/km2 between 1979 and 1986. No such increases were recorded on adjacent farms where pesticide regimes remained unchanged. The yield of grain from conservation headlands was 6-10% lower than that from fully sprayed headlands. Grain moisture levels were around 1% higher and weed seed contamination was also higher in conservation headlands. The Hampshire part of this study was part of the same experimental set-up as (Rands et al. 1984, Rands 1985, Rands 1986, Rands & Sotherton 1986, Dover et al. 1990, Dover 1997).

Additional references:

Sotherton N.W. (1989) Farming methods to reduce the exposure of non-target arthropods to pesticides. Pages 195–212 in: P.C. Jepson (ed.) Pesticides and Non-target Invertebrates. Intercept Ltd., Wimborne.

Sotherton N.W. & Robertson P.A. (1990) Indirect impacts of pesticides on the production of wild gamebirds in Britain. Pages 84–102 in: K.E. Church, R.E. Warner & S.J. Brady (eds.). Perdix V, Gray Partridge and Ring-necked Pheasant Workshop. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Emporia.

Dover J.W. (1991) The conservation of insects on arable farmland. Pages: 293–318 in: N.W. Collins & J. Thomas (eds.) The Conservation of Insects and their Habitats. Academic Press, New York.