Conservation headlands and the economics of wild game production.
The 'Conservation Headland' approach to managing cereal field margins for the benefit of game, is described. The technique involves the modification of pesticide use on the outer 6 m of cereal crops, to allow the survival of certain broad-leaved weeds, which are host-plants for insects important in the diet of gamebird chicks. It is of particular value to grey partridges Perdix perdix, whose chicks feed almost entirely in cereal crops, but pheasants Phasianus colchicus also benefit. The benefit is increased if adjacent areas are managed to provide suitable nesting cover. Because some adjustment in crop management is required, there may be a cost to the farmer. Evidence for the magnitude of effects on crop production is presented and considered in relation to the value of the extra game produced. In most cases, agricultural costs are small and it is considered, that conservation headlands constitute a viable method of reversing the decline in wild game populations, in conjunction with the provision of adequate nesting cover and control of predation during the nesting season. This view is supported by the fact, that an increasing number of farmers in Great Britain are now adopting the system.