Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust

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Biodiversity & Wildlife


blacknap.JPG (18272 bytes) The biodiversity of intensive grasslands can be improved by providing conservation strips a few metres wide around silage fields. In the spring, these strips are not cut for silage. The result is the establishment of areas with a wider selection of grasses as well as wild flowers such as Black Knapweed (left).
pheasant.JPG (14988 bytes) These areas will be used by ground nesting birds such as pheasants which like to nest in grass. They are particularly vulnerable in silage fields in the spring. This is because the crop is cut at a time when most hen pheasants are actually nesting. Where  commercial game shooting takes place, the increase in pheasant numbers also provides more income for the business. This income adds an incentive to provide conservation strips. Other crops are often provided for game and this in turn adds to the biodiversity of the all-grass farm.
soldierb.JPG (18612 bytes) By mid summer these conservation strips support a very large number of invertebrates, from butterflies to predatory Soldier Beetles (left). These high invertebrate numbers are an important food source for young game birds. The seeds of the various plants also provide food for seed-eating song birds such as Gold Finches. Large numbers of voles and other small mammals thrive in the long grass and in turn they may be predated upon by kestrels, owls, stoats, weasels and foxes.
ragwort.JPG (36156 bytes) Conservation strips have significant disadvantages for the farmer. There is a loss of yield. In addition there is the likelihood of a year-on-year build-up of weeds, such as thistles and poisonous plants such as Ragwort (left). These provides a reservoir of weed seeds to contaminate the adjacent grass crops. Where this occurs, conservation strips may need to be mowed or grazed in late summer.