Bees ‘n’ Seeds delivers
The Operation Pollinator Bees ‘n’ Seeds mix has been specifically designed to offer a prolonged source of late season pollen and nectar for insects, followed by an ample food supply and shelter for birds through the winter.
At the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) Allerton Project farm, at Loddington in Leicestershire, Head of Farming, Phil Jarvis, reported the Bees ‘n’ Seeds mix has proven extremely successful for both purposes - and has fitted in effectively with the farming system.
“For the pollinators and birds the benefits have been clear to see, with masses of activity in the quickly established habitat,” he said. “And, having planted the mix in an area seen by the 3000 plus visitors who come to view the work of the Allerton Project, the great splash of autumn colour was extremely welcome.”
“The mix has some useful agronomic benefits that have helped to integrate it into the farm,” reported Phil Jarvis.
“We were sowing in an area where we knew there was a relatively high weed burden to consider. With the selected mix, we were able to create a stale seedbed to remove flushes of weeds, before sowing the Bees ‘n’ Seeds mix relatively late, in mid-June, and still be confident of good establishment.
“The seed selection also allowed for the use of a pre-emergence herbicide to suppress some unwanted weeds, including Fat hen and Redshank,” advised Phil. There was also the option of being able to use a graminicide on the mixture, should Couch grass or other grass weeds encroach from field margins. However, for other growers, herbicide use may be subject to any provisos of environmental schemes.
Phil highlighted the ease of establishment with the Bees ‘n’ Seeds mix. He found that the seed rate of 20 kg/ha worked well through the farm’s drill, compared to the very low seed rates of some conservation mixes.
Soon after sowing he applied a small amount of N fertiliser to encourage a quick establishment, and in particular to help the brassica components of the mix to grow away from any potential Flea Beetle damage.
“I’ve been really pleased with how it’s developed through the season,” he said. “I was able to plant the mix under the fallow land option of the farm’s EFA, where it has provided a great habitat for a far wider range of wildlife.
“The testament has been the sheer diversity of insects and then birds that we have seen benefitting from the area,” he added.
Jim Egan, Chair of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment Delivery Group, who is based at The Allerton Project, noted: “Whilst taking the numerous visitors around the farm throughout the latter half of the summer and into the autumn, it was striking just how many pollinators were using the crop.
“Given its location next to a conventional pollen and nectar mix, it was great to see the versatile Bees ‘n’ Seeds option still delivering long after the other mix had ceased nectar production.”
“It’s been great to see a range of birds, including green finches and linnets, feeding on the Bees ‘n’ Seeds habitat in the early winter,” said Jim Egan.
The Bees ‘n’ Seeds mix contains phacelia, mustard, brown mustard, fodder radish, Gold of Pleasure, sunflower, kale rape and buckwheat. Provided by Kings, which work in partnership with the GWCT at The Allerton Project, is available at a reduced cost to growers through the Syngenta Operation Pollinator initiative, and comes with essential agronomic support too.
Kings Manager, Richard Barnes, commented: “The mix has great potential to provide pollen, nectar and seed to pollinators and farmland birds across several months, so it’s important to look after the areas to ensure they reach that potential.
“Managed effectively, a hectare of Bees ‘n’ Seeds creates a one stop habitat feature, that gives a season-long flowering and seed,” advised Richard Barnes.
“Planted adjacent to other habitats, in a strip or block, it will boost food resources throughout the year,” he added
Syngenta Environment Initiatives Manager, Belinda Bailey, added: “We have 15 years of experience with Operation Pollinator and, working with Kings, we are able to provide bespoke mixtures that will deliver environmentally, but also have the agronomic support for growers to successfully grow these crops.”