WILD BIRD COVER ON SET-ASIDE LAND
AVAILABLE FOR MANAGEMENT
WBC can provide an important food source for a range of farmland birds,
including many of the Red listed Birds of Conservation Concern. The loss of
winter food sources, particularly crop and weed seeds, due to changes in farming
practice has been identified as a key factor in the decline of farmland birds.
WBC recreates the winter food sources that were once widespread on farms, and
enables a range of weeds to establish. The presence of weeds in WBC greatly
increases its value but a compromise needs to be reached with the requirements
of the crop, particularly during establishment.
Kale and quinoa are the two crops that support the greatest range of
species in the highest densities. These crops replicate the wild crucifers and
goosefoot weeds that form a major component in the diet of many farmland birds.
Kale and quinoa should be included in the majority of general purpose mixes,
with the addition of oats and oil seed rape.
A rotational mosaic of WBC of different ages and seed mixes should be
established on farms to provide a constant range of seed type
The Scottish climate and growing conditions means that several WBC crops
widely grown in England are not suitable for Scotland, such as maize, millet and
The requirement under set-aside rules for two crop types to be present in
the mix for up to two years means kale needs to be included as it is one of the
few available biennials. Most other crops are annuals and disappear from the WBC
in the second year, unless they re-establish as volunteers. WBC can be sown as
an annual crop.
The location of the WBC influences the range of species using it. Siting
it next to a hedge or woodland encourages woodland edge species but discourages
birds such as skylark and corn bunting, which prefer open environments.
Currently WBC only accounts for 1.5% of the total area of set-aside in
Scotland. To increase the area there needs to be an incentive to farmers in
terms of a price differential to cover the difference between the cost of WBC
and the much cheaper and more attractive alternative set-aside options of green
cover and natural regeneration. However, when payment has been offered by FWAG/RSPB
there have been problems with the “lucrative use” clause. A recent
announcement by SEERAD indicates that payment can be provided by FWAG/RSPB to
cover this cost and seed can be provided in lieu of payment, but this will only
benefit a few farmers participating in local projects.¨
¨ Refers to projects run by local FWAG groups and may or may not be available in your area.