Sustainable Arable Farming for an Improved Environment (SAFFIE)

Stubble grassThe Sustainable Arable Farming For an Improved Environment (SAFFIE) project aimed to develop our understanding of the results shown in our previous work, showing that conventionally farmed winter wheat does not contain enough invertebrates for farmland birds.

Our research had suggested that this can be mitigated by establishing conservation headlands or other insect-rich habitats. By collaborating with a number of research partners, including the British Trust for Ornithology, the RSPB and the Crop Protection Agency, we set out to develop our ideas in this area and improve farmland biodiversity.

As part of the project, we looked at increasing biodiversity through crop and weed management, and the effects of crop management on food for the skylark population. Our findings included:

  • Adding undrilled patches and widely spaced rows to winter wheat fields does little to improve invertebrate population, though improved access may nonetheless benefit the productivity of farmland birds.
  • Herbicide treatment can successfully manipulate weed cover, maximising beneficial weeds and helping the wildlife population.
  • While wildflower margins boost invertebrate numbers, we found no evidence to suggest that this leads to a boosted abundance of bird food in adjacent plots, suggesting that such measures are only effective in conjunction with herbicide regimes.

An in-depth analysis of our experiments and the full report can be found in our research section.