ARCHIVE: Set-aside and Environmental Benefits

Game birds

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Cultivation following cereals should be left as late as possible, as early cultivation removes the larvae food source which are an important food source for the chicks of these birds. Game Birds (Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse) require tussocky grass for nesting, and a mixture of cereals and natural regeneration for rearing young. These must be in close proximity to one another. Coppice might be considered for which grants could be available.

Brood-rearing cover can be drilled in early spring on suitable soil types, but autumn drilling can give better results on heavier soils. Any cereal could be included. Oats and triticale have performed well in trials. Linseed may also be tried. Adding 5% red clover or birds-foot trefoil to the seed mix will help attract insects as chick food.

Winter cover can provide feeding, holding and driving cover. Mixtures are best based on brassicas. On fertile soils, kale is usually best with millet, sunflowers or quinoa as an additive. If left for a second year this can form good brood-rearing cover, in this case, addition of 5% Canadian clover or lucerne can boost insect numbers. Addition of other crops is necessary to maintain the mixture, and chicory, parsnips and teasel have done well in trials. Second year kale that has seeded is attractive to finches and buntings thus helping to conserve these declining farmland birds. A new alternative is Tanka reed millet mix, which provides more cover and stands better over winter than conventional millet. This can be used instead of kale but needs a companion such as quinoa. Unlike kale, reed millet will not last for a second season and is only suitable for use in the southern half of the country.

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