A proportion of the non-cropped land should be left as natural areas and managed, not only for wildlife, but also to protect the crop from pest and disease outbreaks.
Specifically natural vegetation:
- Provides a reservoir of beneficial species for pest control.
- Acts as buffer zones along ecologically sensitive areas such as watercourses preventing nutrient loss and soil erosion.
- Provides a refuge for wildlife during agricultural operations.
- Can prevent weed invasion along field margins.
- Can act as a source of biodiversity.
These areas may be field margins, hedgerows, woods, fence lines, grass or herbaceous strips. Ideally they should be arranged so they connect with one another and break up excessively large blocks of crop which tend to be most vulnerable to disease and pest outbreaks. About 5% or more of open farmland should consist of these non-cropped natural areas.