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Researchers working on pollinators project to boost sustainability

Published Wednesday, 17th May 2017 in Research news

bee, knowledge scotland, success stories

SRUC researchers are working with the Lothians Monitor Farm on a three year research project which aims to increase the number of pollinators on farm.

The team believe that the changes could result in increases to crop yield.

Improving environmental sustainability is a key element of the Monitor Farm Scotland programme run jointly by Quality Meat Scotland and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.

Gavin Dick, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Knowledge Exchange Manager, said: “This project is not just about ensuring our agricultural industry becomes more productive and profitable, it also about the long-term sustainability of our land and resources.”

The focus of SRUC’s pollinator project will be Prestonhall Farm, part of the Lothians Monitor Farm, an arable enterprise with approximately 120 hectares for spring barley, 160 hectares winter wheat, 70 hectares winter barley, 70 hectares oilseed rape and 60 hectares oats.

Dr Lorna Cole, SRUC agricultural ecologist, said: “We will be increasing wildflower numbers on farm, as well as growing more insect-pollinated crops such as oilseed rape. We hope this will result in a greater diversity of pollinators such as bumblebees, solitary bees and hoverflies, and of course more of them!

“Another benefit will be an increase in natural predators including ladybirds, spiders and ground beetles which should decrease the numbers of crop-damaging pests such as aphids on farm.

“We’re working on the ecological intensification theory which has shown that through increasing pollinators and natural predators crop yield is improved.”

Over the next three years the team will study the pollinator population and monitor how successful pollination has been through regular seed counts. They will then relate those changes back to the arable crop yield on farm.

Bill Gray, Farm Manager, welcomes the chance to improve biodiversity on farm, but is determined that any improvement to the environmental side won’t be detrimental to the business side.

“While we want to see more pollinators on farm we also want to see a corresponding increase in yield, especially if we devote more land to field margins. Being more environmentally sustainable can have a financial cost, but if that cost it recouped then it is well worth making the changes.”

Photo caption: The SRUC project aims to boost the biodiversity of pollinators such as bees and hoverflies.

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