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The basics of habitat creation

Habitat Selection 

In the future a modified BPS payment may well depend on farmers delivering quality habitats.

This concept is referred to as delivering public goods. “Remember habitats are crops so need positive management”. 

Habitats are many and varied, but the greatest rewards generally come from winter bird food, flower mixes and tussocky grass.

Winter bird food

  • Who likes it? Birds, small mammals, bees and butterflies.
  • Season of delivery: Winter seeds and insects as summer food.
  • Types of mix: Annual or biennial.
  • Where to site: Alongside hedges, woods for shelter/escape.
    Open field sites. Difficult or low yielding areas.
    Regular shapes are easiest for management purposes.
    To maintain quality delivery consider moving sites every 3-4 years (environment rotation)
  • Best time to sow: Autumn sown: August - September.
                                 Spring sown: April - May
  • How to sow: Firm, fine, weed-free seedbed. Sow seed 1.5-3.0 cms deep. Very different seed sizes, sunflower and millet may be easier sown separately.
  • Seed rate: Depends on the mix. Upping the seed rate helps with weed control and rougher seed beds.
  • Management: Nitrogen 60kg/ha is generally worthwhile. Pests and weeds may need dealing with. 
  • Supplementary Feeding: An essential addition when sown seed runs out in the winter.

Consider Direct Drilling Winter Bird Food


Grass and Flowers: The Golden Rules

  • A firm, fine weed free seedbed is essential.
  • Seed depth is critical. Broadcast on the surface.
  • Sow at the correct time of year.
  • Sown perennials need regular cutting in year one to reduce excessive growth and annual weeds.
  • When to sow:
    Warm, moist soils are ideal.
    Grass & flower: April-May. July-Early September
    P&N / Legume: April-May. July-August
  • What to sow:
    90% Grass + 10% Flower @ 20kg/ha
    P&N (Legume based) @ 10-12 kg/ha
    Tussocky grass @ 20kg/ha
  • Where to sow:
    Warm, sheltered south facing sunny aspects are best.
  • How to sow: Surface, surface, surface Broadcast not drill onto firm, fine seed bed Ring roll pre- and post-
  • Management: Good establishment is vital Regular cutting in year one reduces weeds – perennials survive cutting and annuals don’t.
    • Spring cut: March-April.
    • Autumn: August-Sept
      Where grass used then remove cuttings.
      Selective graminicides may be relevant?

How Much Habitat do I Need?

Live on Farm with Marek Nowakowski

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