In December 2020 we entered the sixth year of the Wild Pollinator Project, funded from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) through Natural England’s Countryside Stewardship Scheme’s Facilitation Fund. We are engaging with farmers and growers to develop habitats and nesting sites for native pollinators and beneficial insects.
During the first five years of the project 40 farmers/land-managers joined the project, providing a strong cluster in the Forest of Feckenham as well as eight participants in the Shrawley area . Using our Wild Pollinator Health Check, we have audited almost all holdings and provided land managers with action plans that suggest management changes to complement both the holding and the insects . Lessons learnt and good ideas are shared with the whole group through study days, site visits and training events. Whilst Covid-19 affects visiting we are keeping in touch through webinars and picking up the phone.
Our Wild Pollinator Health check is currently being updated but meanwhile you can learn more about how we have been assessing landholdings for pollinators by downloading a copy below.
2019's ‘Insect declines and why they matter’ report examined mounting evidence that insect populations are close to collapse and concluded that “the consequences are clear; if insect declines are not halted, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems will collapse, with profound consequences for human wellbeing.”
In our Facilitation Fund, land managers work together to maintain, establish and enhance existing populations of wild pollinators and other beneficial insects. For example, bumblebees and solitary bees (who can need quite specific habitat such as warm sunny area of bare earth), hoverflies (whose larvae are effective predators often of aphids) and butterflies etc.) by providing appropriate nesting habitat, food supplies and overwintering habitat.
More recently there is increasing emphasis on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to alleviate the harm/stress that pesticides can cause pollinators, other invertebrates and the food chain in general, including the presence of certain pesticides in water that must then be cleaned to make it safe to drink.
Our overall aim is calling on the Government to set an ambitious pesticide reduction target that is as good as, if not better than, the EU’s proposed target to reduce by 50% the overall use of – and risk from – chemical pesticides by 2030.
Farmers and growers, pollinators and beneficial insects are benefiting through a range of multi-functional solutions including:
- planting of pollen and nectar mixes to increase the amount and duration of food availability to wild pollinators whilst also buffering water courses
- connecting habitats to help pollinators move through the countryside
- reducing the need for growers to import pollinators
- increasing local knowledge and engaging growers in finding solutions and increasing the resilience (of both farmers and pollinators) in the area to climate change
- reducing use of insecticides and slug pellets
- sharing ideas regarding diversification and agro-ecological practices including agro-forestry, regenerative farming practices, growing heritage wheat. No rewilding yet!
- Lending a helping hand with Countryside Stewardship scheme applications
- Promoting to Government that the new Countryside Stewardship schemes must support farmers to adopt insect-friendly farming practices
As the project progresses, we'll share our knowledge and experiences here, as well as upload fact and advice sheets.
You can hear more about the project from our Senior Land Advisor Caroline and two of our farmers in a piece we did with BBC Midlands Today in July 2016.
The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.
This project has received European Union spending under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme's Facilitation Fund.