Campaign for the Farmed Environment names intensive new 'beacon' farms

JE Piccaver & Co is one of a handful of new "beacon farms" for Campaign for the Farmed Environment, rolled out for horticulture and potato growers last week (see above).

The 910ha farm in Spalding is a tech-rich hub of intensively farmed land thrumming to the din of new harvesting kit and massive irrigation rigs. It also brims with 4.5ha of grass margins, 35ha of woods, 8.5 miles of hedges and 4ha of beetle banks.

Production director Phillip Hubbert said around 5.5 per cent of the total land was dedicated to environmental features including margins and corners of fields. One such plot, 0.2ha of tussocky grass and thistles, is perfect for marsh harriers and predatory insects. The north-facing plot was overshadowed by trees and gave poor yields.

"We can offer the environmental benefits of set-aside on a relatively small part of land but without having it imposed from above," Hubbert said. "Managing it well is better than having a sterile field."

One of the farm's many beetle banks, a 5m-wide strip, split a 20ha field, which helped rotation management and linked two hedgerows to form a wildlife corridor for barn owls and crop-friendly insects.

A nearby ditch brimmed with common reed and sedge; and a wild-bird seed area - parallel strips of maize, kale and sorghum - attracted yellow hammers and tree sparrows.

Hubbert said JE Piccaver & Co embraced environmental schemes such as Countryside Stewardship, Entry and Higher Level Stewardships, Assured Produce and Tesco Nurture. He explained: "From a commercial view, this has little negative impact and in many ways is positive in attracting predatory insects, for example."


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