Putting ideas about improving ecosystem health into practice a test at a field scale: Findings from the Sustainable Arable Farming for an Improved Environment (SAFFIE) project.
Boatman, Nigel*,1, Jones, Naomi1, Smith, Barbara2, Holland, John2, 1 Central Science Laboratory, York, UK2 The Game Conservancy Trust, Fordingbridge, UK
ABSTRACT- Intensification of agricultural production has led to declines in biodiversity on farmed land. Recently, agricultural support policy in the European Union has shifted from production-orientated measures towards area payments coupled with support for management to enhance the rural environment. Hence there is a need to develop methodologies to improve environmental sustainability of crop production, without significant impacts on crop productivity. The SAFFIE project is a five-year, multi-disciplinary, multi-site experimental project in the UK designed to evaluate novel approaches to managing arable farmland, both crops and non-cropped margins, to enhance biodiversity, with particular reference to taxa important in the food chains of declining farmland bird species. Crop management techniques investigated in large scale experiments include crop spacing and the creation of undrilled patches in commercially managed wheat crops, compared with conventionally managed crops in terms of the impact on plants, invertebrates and bird species. In addition, small-scale experiments at three sites are investigating how adjusting herbicide inputs, in combination with variable row spacing and spring soil disturbance, affect biodiversity of plant species and associated insects within wheat crops. A further large-scale experiment is concerned with interactions between management of the field margin and cropped area. Weed cover and species composition varied greatly in undrilled patches. Preliminary analysis indicates that abundance of flies (Diptera) was related to cover of grasses in these patches, whereas abundance of carabid beetles was related to cover of the crop. Row spacing had little effect on weed metrics. Both weed and invertebrate communities responded to modified herbicide programmes, but results varied between sites and years. The significance of the results for the development of biodiversity-friendly cropping systems will be discussed.
Key words: weed/insect interactions, wheat, vegetation architecture, farmland biodiversity
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