Harvesting for wildlife
Whilst catching a quick breath between cereal harvest and maize harvest the Farming team have been lending a hand to the Estate team who are responsible for managing our extensive environmental schemes.
The utilisation of modern machinery ordinarily used for the harvesting of commercial crops can also deliver environmental benefits. Forage harvesters allow for the efficient removal of herbage from Countryside Stewardship margins to encourage regrowth and lower fertility by removing the cuttings which are then used to produce green energy. Lower nutrient levels in the soil ensures that more fragile wildflowers are not out competed by strong growing grasses.
It is hoped that foraging vegetation from margins will reduce the dense bottom growth or “matting” that is sometimes seen after traditional mowing. Matting can inhibit the growth of less vigorous species thus lowering overall plant diversity. Taking steps to maximise the diversity of margins provides a range of habitats for different species. Whether mowing or indeed foraging, the creation of structural diversity (i.e. wildflower areas of different heights and growth stages) within stewardship margins encourages a greater range of farmland birds, small mammals and invertebrates.
Field margins across the Estate have an important role in aiding the movement of species through the landscape. By taking an innovative approach to managing these areas with machinery designed for commercial purposes, we hope to support the wider ecological network.