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Farmers given chance to Sow the Seeds for Pollinator Revival

UK arable farmers now have a great opportunity to kick-start the creation of essential new food resources for pollinating insects.

Bumblebee on phacelia

Bumblebee on phacelia

UK arable farmers now have a great opportunity to kick-start the creation of essential new food resources for pollinating insects.

The Syngenta Operation Pollinator offer, in partnership with the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) and seed suppliers, Kings, will provide 350 seed packs of a purpose-designed annual wildflower mix and the full agronomic support to help farmers establish the valuable new ecological habitat – at a cost of just £35 per pack.

Each seed pack will create up to one hectare of prolific wildflowers, producing 350 hectares of new habitat on UK farms. That would equate to every household in a city the size of Leeds sowing a four x two meter wildflower border at home.

This joint venture paves the way for a wider industry initiative in 2015 to address some of the challenges laid down by the National Pollinator Strategy.

Annual wildflowers are easy to establish alongside conventional cropped farmland, using the same techniques, timing and equipment as establishing winter oilseed rape crops, according to Syngenta Environmental Initiatives Manager, Belinda Bailey. “In the first year they can provide a huge boost in the food resources for pollinating insects that crucially lasts right through the season.

“It is a quick and simple way for farmers to get involved and make a positive contribution to helping bumblebees, solitary bees and other pollinating insects – along with wider farm biodiversity,” she advised.

belinda bailey

Belinda Bailey

“Annual wildflowers can play an incredibly important role in feeding pollinators, alongside other ecological features – such as perennial pollen and nectar mixes, hedgerows and grass margins – where farmers have hitherto been so successful in providing pollinator friendly habitats for food and overwinter nest sites.”

Speaking at the launch of Sow the Seeds for Pollinator Revival at a CFE farm walk and open day in Worcestershire this week (16 June 2014), CFE Worcestershire Coordinator, Bob Slater, said: “Many farmers have made great strides to provide new habitats for pollinating insects – to the point where the populations of some bee species have been increasing in recent years.

“This joint initiative with CFE and Operation Pollinator fully supports our efforts to encourage even more farmers to get involved, and helping to create a more diverse range of habitats on farmland across the UK. It is an extremely powerful demonstration that productive commercial farming and positive ecological management can co-exist in the same field.”

Richard Barnes of Kings added: “The Operation Pollinator Annual Wildflower mix we have put together has been carefully selected to provide a prolonged flowering period and a sustained supply of food for pollinating insects.

“It is based on sound ecological research of pollinator activity and has been extensively trialled on farms as part of a Syngenta project to enhance growers’ oilseed rape yields. The growers involved have found it relatively easy to establish and manage the margins, with extremely positive results in pollinator activity and crop performance.”

Derbyshire arable farmer, James Chamberlain, has trialled the new annual wildflower mix for the past two years, as part of his initiatives to enhance the ecological features on the 550-hectare farm, which sits close to the River Derwent.He has welcomed the flexibility and simplicity of annual wildflower margins, which have been sown alongside his oilseed rape fields.

“I have been really impressed with the results,” he reported. “The margin was still simply buzzing with insect activity right through the end of summer. That has to be good news in providing a continuity of food source for the pollinating insects, at a time when flower availability for wild pollinators typically dips.

“The crimson clover started flowering before the OSR in mid-May, shortly followed by the Phacelia, and then the other flowers that have just gone on and on.”

Syngenta’s Belinda Bailey added that whilst the aim of Operation Pollinator is to encourage farmers to plant long-lasting perennial pollen and nectar margins, annual wildflower margins had proven to provide a valuable additional food source and diversity of habitat for pollinating insects.

“The experience and benefits gained from establishment and management of annual wildflower margins should also give farmers confidence and commitment to establish long-term options in the future.”

Farmers wishing to take advantage of the low cost seed and advice to support Operation Pollinator and CFE should contact their Syngenta Area Manager or their CFE Local Co-ordinator. Alternatively visit the website

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