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Farming

Call to watch the birdies

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Citizen Science: Bird count shows engagement with conservation

FARMERS, land managers and gamekeepers are being urged to circle Friday, February 9 to Sunday,​ ​February 18, in their diary for the count, which is run by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

The BFBC is an opportunity to tell the wider world about the birds on farm.

It takes just 30 minutes to take part in the count, and founder Jim Egan is hoping for a big turnout.

“A great number of farmers and keepers are doing tremendous work to boost farmland birds and other wildlife. As well as planting seed mixes to provide winter feed, they also leave weedy stubbles over-winter, manage hedgerows so as to leave berries for food, and supplement this by putting out mixed seeds and grain on tracks and field margins,” he said.

“However, not everyone appreciates the extent to which farmers and keepers are managing existing habitats and creating new ones specifically to help our farmland birds. Now is the time to change all that.”

Jim is head of training and development at the GWCT’s renowned Allerton Project, where research has identified how to bring bird numbers back on productive farmland. The number of birds present there has been doubled by adapting a management system originally developed for gamebirds.

Each farmer has their own approach to wildlife conservation, but across the country the hard work being undertaken makes us optimistic for the future.

Mike Green, environmental and stewardship manager at BASF, the main sponsor of the BFBC, said: “The Big Farmland Bird Count is a wonderful opportunity for citizen science being carried out by farmers to demonstrate the range of species that depend and live on British farmland during the winter months.

“BASF is really excited about the continued involvement in this important initiative and is keen to help farmers show the quality of environmental work they can deliver.”

Guy Smith, vice president of NFU, said: “Farmers manage 70% of our iconic landscape and are committed to the environment. 10,000 football pitches worth of flower habitat have been planted, creating homes for wildlife, while more than 30,000km of hedgerows have been planted and restored.

“This year’s Big Farmland Bird Count provides farmers with another great opportunity to show that we are fully engaged with conservation. I would encourage as many farmers as possible to get the binoculars out, dust off the notepad, sharpen the pencil and get recording as you go out and about on the farm.”

Last year, 970 farmers and keepers took part and recorded 112 species across 900,000 acres.

They recorded 22 Red List species including fieldfare, tree sparrow, starling, yellowhammer and song thrush. There were wood pigeon, woodpecker, pheasant and grey partridge recorded. The count aims to help farmers and keepers build a record of birds on their farm so they can, where necessary, target their conservation work.

CLA vice president Mark Tufnell said: “Anyone who works on and cares for the land is vital in helping to ensure the future survival of many of the country’s most cherished farmland bird species, so the more people we have participating the better.”

At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the Trust. All participants will receive a report on the national results once they have been collated.

The BFBC is sponsored by BASF and delivered in partnership with FWAG Association and LEAF with support from the NFU, CLA and Kings.

How to take part in three simple steps

  1. Download your count sheet at www.gwct.org.uk/bfbc
  2. Count your birds! On a day between 9 and 18 February, spend about 30 minutes recording the species and number of birds seen on one particular area of the farm.
  3. Once you’ve completed your count, simply submit your results at www.gwct.org.uk/bfbc
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Farming

2018 Rural Crime Survey opens

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IT’S THREE years since the last National Rural Crime Survey revealed the huge cost of crime to rural communities – both financial, at £800 million per year, and ​psychologically​ with chronic under-reporting, anger and frustration at the police and government – says the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN)
NRCN produced a series of recommendations and, in many areas, the police took steps to improve matters. So, now, it wants to know what’s changed.

Do you think crime has gone up or down? Do you feel safer? What’s your view of the police in your community?

In short, ​they want to know the true picture of crime and anti-social behaviour in rural communities across England and Wales – and the impact it has where you live or work.

Questions cover a range of issues – from whether you report crimes that you or your business suffer, to the impact crime and anti-social behaviour has on you and your area, and whether you believe enough is done to catch those who carry out the offences.

According to NRCN, it’s all about making sure the voice of rural communities is heard by those who can make a difference to where we live and work – from the Police to Government.

The survey is now available online here https://bit.ly/2HtJlCV and is open for submissions until June 10.

The survey last took place in 2015. Then, 13,000 responded to give their impressions of crime and anti-social behaviour and revealed the financial cost of rural crime was significant – around £800 million every year.

One of this year’s focuses as ​they rerun the research is whether rural crime continues to be underreported. Three years ago, one in four said they didn’t report the last crime they’d been a victim of because they didn’t see the point.

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Farming

Global plant pest standards agreed

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Global pest: The Oriental Fruit Fly is rapidly spreading

THE BODY charged with keeping global trade in plants and plant products safe has adopted several new phytosanitary standards aimed at preventing destructive agricultural and environmental pests from jumping borders and spreading internationally.

The standardized norms developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) cover a range of strategies and techniques used to prevent the introduction and spread of plant diseases and pests to new environments, thereby avoiding their often-devastating impacts on biodiversity, food security and trade.

“This is challenging work with high stakes: each year an estimated 10-16 percent of our global harvest is lost to plant pests. A loss estimated at $220 billion​,​” FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo said at the opening of this year’s IPPC annual meeting in Rome.

Some $1.1 trillion worth of agricultural products are traded internationally each year, with food accounting for over 80 percent of that total, according to FAO data.

New measures adopted this week by the IPPC’s governing body, the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures(CPM), include:

Standard on the use of various temperature treatments against agricultural pests. The standard aims at ensuring that such treatments are consistently and effectively used in different operational contexts.

The norm covers cold treatment techniques that freeze and kill pests as well as those that raise temperatures past their survival threshold. This can be achieved by submerging them in extremely hot water or exposing them to super-heated steam (for commodities vulnerable to drying out, such as fruits, vegetables or flower bulbs) or dry heat (ideal for low moisture-content items such as seeds or grain).

Revised standard for sanitation of wood packing materials. An existing standard, known as ISPM-15, was updated to include the use of sulphuryl fluoride — a gas insecticide — and new-generation heating technologies that employ microwave and radio frequency waves to generate pest-killing temperatures deep inside wood products.

An expanded standard on the use of heat vapour to kill Oriental Fruit Flies. The highly destructive, fruit-attacking Bactrocera dorsalis originated in Asia but has now spread to at least 65 countries. Its presence in Africa, where it first appeared in 2003, costs the continent an estimated $2 billion in annual losses due to fruit export bans. The control technique outlined under the new measure kills 99.98​%​ of the bug’s eggs and larvae when used correctly.

The IPPC Commission also approved revisions that streamline existing standards targeting fruit flies to make it easier for countries to comply with them and improve their effectiveness, as well as revisions to a standard that establishes best-practice benchmarks for the operation of national pest surveillance programs.

And it endorsed new diagnostic protocols for sudden oak death, a fungi-like organism of unknown origin that attacks a wide range of trees and shrubs in nurseries, introduced into western North America and western Europe through the ornamental plants trade. And it approved new diagnostic protocol for tospoviruses, which affect 1,000 plant species and are causing devastating losses, especially to tomato, potato and squash and cucumber yields.

BENEFITS AND RISKS OF GLOBAL TRADE

The dangerous hitchhikers carried by global trade — plant pests and diseases — once introduced into new environments can quickly take root and spread, impacting food production and causing billions in economic damages and control cost. One recent study in East Africa, for instance, found that just five invasive alien species could be causing as much as $1.1 billion in economic losses annually to smallholder farmers in the region.

Not only can fruits, crops and seeds become infected, but the containers and boxes they travel in, as well. Packaging for overseas shipments is commonly constructed from wood, which is relatively inexpensive, and easily manufactured — but also easily infested with a variety of bark and wood pests, and so act as a vector. Timber and wood-made products like furniture can harbour stowaways, also.

This means that not only are food crops at risk, but forests and trees as well. Recent studies shared during this week’s meeting have shown that the loss of tree cover due to invasive pests may result in an increase in stress related-diseases and possibly elevated human mortality rates.

In another example, the Republic of Korea was recently forced to cut down some 3.5 million trees as a result of the pinewood nematode, and over the past three decades has spent nearly a half a billion dollars on control programs to fight this deadly pest. Additional sums have been spent in Canada and the United States in attempts to stop the thus far unstoppable Emerald Ash Borer.

The need to contain threats such as these are why the IPPC was established in 1952. Since then, it has promulgated some 100 standards covering a broad range of phytosanitary issues. It also runs a number of programs that work to share information on best-practices and build the capacity of developing countries to manage plant diseases and pests, both at home and in trade flows.

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Farming

Tenant farming must not be ‘Cinderella Sector’

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Seeking assurances: George Dunn, TFA

THE TENANT F​ARMERS ASSOCIATION (TFA) is seeking assurances from Government that the farmers represented by the TFA will not be left behind as the Government develops new farming and environmental policies for the post Brexit era.

TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn​,​ said​:​ “BREXIT has provided a long agenda of things to do. However there is a danger that we will see Government focus on a small number of priorities in order to manage its workload over the coming months. This could lead to many sensible ideas for the development of farm tenancies falling by the wayside.

“The Government has challenged the farming industry to achieve greater levels of productivity to ensure long-term resilience. It is widely recognised that, in comparison to their owner occupier counterparts, tenant farmers are routinely some of the most efficient farmers within the UK. However they are hampered by restrictive agreements and short lengths of term leading to under investment. Also, the combination of these factors leave many tenant farmers unable to participate in existing agri environment schemes. The TFA has been in the vanguard of encouraging Government to address these issues both by amending the legislative and taxation environments within which agricultural tenancies operate,” said Mr Dunn.

The TFA was pleased when, last year, DEFRA reconvened the Tenancy Reform Industry Group (TRIG) with a remit to advise on legislative and other changes that would be necessary to ensure the success of the tenanted sector of agriculture in meeting the Government’s productivity and resilience agendas.

“TRIG produced a comprehensive report for DEFRA’s consideration towards the end of last year. Whilst I am pleased that the Government’s ‘Health and Harmony’ consultation has identified the importance of the tenanted farm sector, it was disappointing that the opportunity was not taken to respond to the recommendations from TRIG and to identify which priorities the Government was minded to pursue. We are encouraging DEFRA not to sideline the valuable work that TRIG has already done in this space,” said Mr Dunn.

“Whilst it is important to address the future of the Basic Payment Scheme, trade, access to labour and look for new agri environment measures, these must not be prioritised at the expense of ensuring that tenant farmers have a flexible, long-term environment within which to develop their businesses and participate in future schemes to reward farmers for producing public goods​.”

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