Green Headlands enhance business efficiency and the environment
Syngenta Green Headlands initiative offers a win, win for improving crop production and business efficiency, whilst enhancing the environment and ecology of the farm, according to Dr Alistair Leake, director of policy for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).
Research into the role of the Green Headlands on the GWCT Loddington Estate in Leicestershire has demonstrated opportunities for better management of the crops, the soil and the landscape, delivering the environmental benefits that come with that, he believed.
“In the future farmers are going to have to continue to produce food, but if they can do that more efficiently and more sustainably, whilst they are delivering biodiversity improvements to soil, then we are on to a really good trajectory.”
Green Headlands, developed by Syngenta, in partnership with ASDA, were originally instigated and widely adopted by vegetable and potato growers. Now Dr Leake believes they are set to become an increasing part of arable farm planning.
“We decided to concentrate our efforts on maximising the output from the middle of the field, and use the Green Headlands to grow crops that are going to improve that soil and make those headlands deliver other environmental benefits,” he advised.
Attributes of the Green Headlands recorded include flowers for pollinators, seeds for birds, legumes fixing nitrogen and tap rooted plants helping to improve the structure of the soils.
Head of farming at the GWCT, Phil Jarvis, highlighted the Green Headlands have been relatively easy to establish and manage with minimal inputs or effort. A quick cultivation and then drill was all that was required, with only the predominantly fodder radish green headland mix receiving 30 kg/ha N in the seedbed to get a good start.
“These Green Headlands could be the sort of thing that comes into our environmental land management of the future,” reported Mr Jarvis. He cited factors such as habitat creation for pest predators and pollination services, along with water protection, as key benefits for the farm and UK policy for food production and environmental enhancement.
Syngenta sustainable farming manager, Belinda Bailey, advocated the Operation Pollinator Green Headlands has developed something that not only benefits growers’ farm businesses, but also the wider environment and biodiversity in the landscape.
“The work has created some really valuable insights on the performance of Green Headlands in the field. Now we are looking to share those results and help more farmers to benefit from integrating the environmental features with profitable crop production.”