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Giving farms to nature has great benefits

Words by Smiley Team

Giving farmland back to nature does not lower crop yield, a landmark study has shown.

In a new study conducted in the UK, researchers have found that giving up unproductive crop fields to nature makes a huge difference to several different species of birds and insects. The number of insect-eating birds, such as the blue tit, rose by an incredible 80% on average, with 12 bird species and nine butterfly species also seeing a significant increase.

The research was performed at Hillesden, a government-owned, commercial farm in Buckinghamshire that spans 2,400 acres. By taking the parts of the farm that were less productive, or more prone to pests and flooding, and giving them back to nature, the local wildlife was able to thrive.

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“Investigating changes in populations over a significant period of time, and comparing these with other sites, means we can be confident that agri-environment options can bring long-term term benefits for bird and butterfly populations,” said Dr. John Redhead of UKCEH, lead author of the new research paper.

“Hillesden is a typical, large arable farm with conventional agricultural practices, in an ordinary landscape with no large patches of natural habitat. Therefore, it is likely that the results of our long-term study indicate what can be achieved on other commercial farms with good planning, implementation and management of agri-environment measures.”

Incredibly, by giving up the fields that already saw a low crop yield due to outside factors, the farm did not see a loss in the number of crops harvested. 

This research has huge implications for wildlife in the UK, as many different local species have been affected by the intensification of UK farming since WWII. By making these changes, under guidance from those in the know, we can have a huge effect on Britain’s local wildlife. 

Inspired to act?

GET INVOLVED: Support Giving Back to Nature and help wildlife thrive.

SUPPORT: Get involved with the RSPB and help protect the UK’s wildlife.


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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