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Link Project: Perennial field margins with combined ecological and ag

Project: Funded ProjectResearch

1/12/0830/11/13

When Charlemagne said “let my armies be the rocks and the trees and the birds in the sky”, food production and the war we wage against crop pests would have been far from his mind. However, in a changing agricultural environment growers are increasingly turning to nature to provide important ecological services, including pest control and crop pollination. The creatures that naturally provide these services - primarily insects - are part of our ‘Functional Agro-Biodiversity’, and encouraging them into our farm-scape is the focus of a 5-year research programme headed by Prof Felix Wäckers of Lancaster University. The project, funded through Defra’s Horticulture LINK programme and carried out in partnership with the horticulture industry, levy bodies and major retailers, aims to use selected flowering plants in field margins to recruit all forms of Functional Agro-Biodiversity, from bees to hoverflies and parasitoid wasps. Once present in numbers these beneficial insects will assist growers in producing their crops in a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner. Farmland birds should also benefit from an expanded menu featuring a host of juicy insects and a plentiful supply of seeds.

Specific objectives include:
1.Develop a seed mixture for perennial field margins that has the potential to optimize pest control, pollination and conservation benefits while minimizing potential risks for vegetable rotation schemes
2.Quantify the impact of field margins on biological control agents, pests, pollinators and farmland birds.
3.Support predator population build-up through provision of non-pest prey in field margins.
4.Quantify the impact of perennial field margins on pest levels, crop quantity/quality and pest management costs
5.Communicate best practice to commercial growers in the form of ‘blueprints’ for margin establishment and management, drawing upon knowledge generated in the proposed project as well as in ongoing European biodiversity projects.