Efforts to protect endangered birds

ONCE again, soil conditions were ideal for cultivations and drilling spring barley and sugar beet in March.

While it is obviously a major concern for the water companies that once again we have only received about half of our average winter rainfall, the crops on the farm do not require much moisture at this time as transpiration rates are still low.

As the mean temperature rises during May, June and July, up to 25mm a week of moisture is required by a growing crop of wheat.

Crops of potatoes will need twice this amount in hot weather when they are bulking up.

If the moisture does not come from rain, the plants rely on reserves from the soil to make up the deficit.

Should the soil be dry at depth, then yields will suffer.

Only farmers who have been able to abstract sufficient water to store in reservoirs will be able to supply enough water for their potato and vegetable crops.

I wrote in the Market Rasen Mail last year at my dismay that Poolham Hall Farm had been turned by Natural England for the higher level stewardship scheme.

The benefits of this would have allowed me to continue encouraging the grey partridges and skylarks on the farm – two of the birds on the RSPB’S red list of endangered species.

Levels have increased in the last 10 years and an early spring count of about 50 pairs of grey partridges is encouraging for a farm of this size.

This is in spite of predation from both sparrow hawks and buzzards whose numbers have also dramatically increased over recent years.

The four hectares of land that had been used for wild bird seed under the Old Countryside Stewardship Scheme will now be used in the Campaign for the Farmed Environment Scheme as fallow plots and game strips to produce seed for the birds next winter.

The CFE is a scheme where farmers voluntarily use their land to help wildlife without any compensation and foregoing income from growing other crops on the same land.

Both Horncastle and Coningsby National Farmers’ Union groups held their annual dinner dances in February where guests kindly donated more than £1,600 to RABI – the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.

RABI supports all members of the farming community who are facing hardship, whether they are a farm worker who has been made redundant or a farmer who has lost his livelihood through a disease such as foot and mouth, as happened in 2001.

To mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on Monday, June 4, the aim is to light a chain of 2,012 beacons across the UK and Commonwealth.

As the crucial farming partner for the beacon campaign, RABI aims to light 1,000 of the total target.

In 2002, RABI was responsible for 650 out of 2000 beacons lit to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

After the event, the Queen will be presented with a special commemorative book showing all the locations of the beacons that were registered with RABI.

There will be one such beacon in the Horncastle area, at Scrivelsby Estates, owned by the Dymoke family.