Farming and the grey partridge.
Farmers have always held, if they have not been able to practice, the basic tenet of wildlife conservationists that natural resources should be husbanded carefully if thev are to be harvested in a sustainable way. Others may sometimes not view farm animals and farm crops as natural but 'The World Conservation Strategy', launched in 1980, clearly defined conservation as 'The management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations'.
Ecologists concerned for the welfare of farmland wildlife, because of widespread hedge removal, intensive pesticide use and so on, have been mainly concerned with flowers, bees, butterflies and song-birds. They have not, usually, considered crop ecosystems: almost as if the natural environment ceases to exist at the field margins! Indeed it has, even recently, been concluded that 'For the foreseeable future, most wildlife on lowland farms can only be conserved on the land which is not being ... cropped' (3). Similarly, crop protection biologists have scarcely considered the natural environment in which the crops grow and, like politicians, they have rarely thought about the sustainability of modern crop protection methods.
Because they involve long-term investigations of farmland wildlife and of crop ecosystems, studies on the partridge provide a unique bridge between the interests of sustainable crop protection and the need to protect the environment.
This article outlines the current position of the grey partridge, especially in relation to the role of modern cereal growing techniques. It then discusses practical methods available to restore partridge numbers and associated species. Some other aspects of cereal ecology are reviewed with special attention to the continuing need to protect the environment from long-term direct and indirect effects of pesticide use. Contrary to a recent unsubstantiated view, expressed in this Journal (2), it is accepted that continued use of pesticides is endangering national populations of several species of plants and animals. Such changes are also occurring throughout the cereal growing regions of the world; they may be irreversible. They are certainly regrettable in the light of cereal surpluses.