Our insect monitoring programmes continued in Sussex and at Loddington, Royston and on two estates in France. We use the insect data to calculate the Chick Food Index (CFI) from which we can predict partridge chick survival and likely population change between years. To maintain populations, a CFI of 0.8 is needed. It is clear that in England supplies of insects for chicks are still woefully inadequate in commercially-farmed winter wheat (see Figure 1) and the same is true of many other arable crops. Insect numbers can, however, be sufficiently high in set-aside and other non-crop habitats.
However, we are still unsure how such habitats should be arranged across each farm and whether set-aside can be improved to enhance biodiversity. To this end we are being funded by the Sustainable Arable LINK programme, along with our partners The Arable Group, Rothamsted Research and the British Trust for Ornithology, to answer these questions over the next four years.