New seed mix to help the birds and the bees
A new wild flower seed mixture designed to provide valuable food sources for both pollinating insects and wild birds is available this spring, as an extension to the highly successful Operation Pollinator Sow the Seeds initiative.
Syngenta Environmental Manager, Belinda Bailey, believes the new Bees ’n’ Seeds mix could help increase over-winter food sources for birds, in the same way that Operation Pollinator wildflower areas have provided the all important resources for wild bees and other pollinating insects.
Whilst farmland bird studies had revealed serious historical declines in some species and a significant fall in overall numbers, more recently populations of some important species have seen encouraging signs of revival.
“We have shown that the positive action of farmers to provide and protect essential habitats for breeding and feeding can have a real beneficial impact,” she said. “The Bees ’n’ Seeds mix has been specifically created to provide a winter feeding resource for many farmland birds, along with vital later flowering pollen and nectar sources to extend the season for pollinators.”
The one-year Bees ’n’ Seeds mix, created and produced by Kings, has been designed to attract and feed pollinators, along with hosting insects that are important food sources for farmland bird chicks. Furthermore, the mix will go on to produce a wide range of seeds for the birds to feed on during the winter months.
The latest Syngenta Operation Pollinator initiative, in partnership with the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE), will provide 450 hectare packs of Bees ’n’ Seeds mix for just £50/ha, along with associated agronomic advice and grower guidelines.
The Operation Pollinator Bees ’n’ Seeds mix includes:
• Brown mustard
• Fodder radish
• Gold of Pleasure
• Kale rape
Kings' Richard Barnes advised the Bees ’n’ Seeds mixture should be sown into a prepared seedbed from mid-May through to mid-June, typically planted using standard farm drilling equipment. The range of plants included could be compatible with a pre-emergence herbicide application where necessary, along with potential for post-emergence to control a range of broad leaved and grass weeds, he added.
“Many of the species will provide flowers from mid/late July through to mid-October, to support a wide range of bees, butterflies and other insect species,” he said. “The benefit can be further extended where the Bees ’n’ Seeds mix is sown adjacent to an Operation Pollinator Annual Wildflower area, giving a season-long flowering habitat.”
Richard added that the seed provision will include a range of seed sizes to ensure the area is attractive and valuable for many farmland bird species. Subject to successful establishment, the supply of seed could continue well into January or February on larger blocks that have been well managed.
The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is already planning to plant the new Bees ’n’ Seeds on its Allerton Project farm in Leicestershire.
GWCT Head of Development & Training, Jim Egan,said: “The wide range of species selected in the Bees ’n’ Seeds mix will complement other game cover crops on the farm. Importantly, it will encourage insect life over the summer that is so vital to young game birds and will go on to produce a suitable canopy structure for shelter during the winter months.
“This seed offer gives farmers a great opportunity to make the most of some of the EFA options, and to voluntarily plant pollen and nectar and bird food on fallow land or buffer strips,” he advised.
Mr Egan added that the Allerton Project farm’s environmental features are targeted where they offer positive benefit for wildlife, but also where they fit agronomically with a further multifunctional role; to protect soil and water resources from erosion, for example.
The GWCT is a partner in the CFE, which is actively encouraging farmers to plant voluntary options on farm to enhance biodiversity, the value of which can be further extended with the Bees ’n’ Seeds option.