Bulmers to introduce environmental standards

Cider-maker consults apple growers on details of points-based system to promote responsibility and protect lower duty.

Cider apples

Bulmers will introduce environmental standards for its roughly 200 contract growers, but has stressed that most already meet the anticipated requirements.

Chris Muntz, who is grower development manager at parent company Heineken, told growers during the Bulmer's annual Orchard & Machinery Day at its Monnington Farm site last week: "We need to be seen as an industry that promotes responsibility."

He added: "Cider has a preferential rate (of duty) over beer, and if we can show good environmental credentials, we can help to keep that rate."

The company envisaged a points-based system, he said, but added: "There should be flexibility to take account of different growers' conditions. Many are already in environmental schemes and this should complement those."

Bulmers is still consulting with growers on details of the scheme via a questionnaire, to which it has had a good response so far, Muntz said.

Environmental consultant Mike Williams explained: "One grower we surveyed claimed that his orchards were an environmental desert, but he had miles of hedges and field margins that were superbly managed. He has since bought 30 nest boxes and now is in pretty good shape."

He added: "An orchard is like a woodland, but because there are no old trees, there is a lack of nesting holes for birds such as blue and great tits, which are major predators of aphids."

A Herefordshire employer of handicapped people, Widemarsh Workshops, would benefit from nesting-box orders, Williams said. More than 300 growers attended the event.

Wild flower strips Monnington trial

University of Lancaster PhD student Alistair Campbell is conducting trials of wild flower strips between rows at Monnington, with the support of Bulmers and Syngenta.

"Many insects, including pollinators and predators, use flower pollen and nectar as a source of food, which can keep them going between blossom and harvest," he said.

A total of 25 species were planted, although only 16 flowered, Campbell explained. "But many are perennial so will keep coming back. They are low-maintenance and can be mown," he added.

While a full analysis of any reduction in pests on neighbouring trees is yet to be completed, Campbell said: "It's looking promising."

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