FARMERS in England are increasingly looking at sowing pollinator crops as a means of boosting yields in broadacre crops that require pollination.
To attract biodiversity and the insects required to pollinate crops, such as bees, farmers are looking at sowing wildflower mixes in suitable locations near their cash crops.
Early adopters are reporting promising results from the wildflower mixes, which also have the spin-off benefit of providing a swathe of colour in the summer landscape.
Seed company Syngenta is leading a project named Operation Pollinator in which it is seeking to boost the number of pollinating insects on commercial farms.
It works by creating specific habitats, tailored to local conditions and native insects.
The project is not limited solely to commercial farmers, but to other landholders with open spaces, such as golf courses and universities.
Wildflower mixes were a colourful aspect at last week’s Cereals Event, a major field day held in Cambridgeshire, with farmers increasingly open to exploring alternate means to boost productivity.
Along with the pollination aspect, researchers are also looking to boost beneficial insect levels to eat pest species.
Seed distributors are conducting research on what the best mixes are in terms of species to attract beneficial insects.
Syngenta’s own initial mix includes cornflower, phacelia, crimson clover and fodder radish.
The mixes are in full flower now, in early summer in the northern hemisphere.
Operationally, they are designed to be planted around the same time as England’s oilseed rape (canola) crop.
Farmers are advised to simply scratch the cover crop in on the surface.
The mixture is designed to be taken out at the end of the season, with a new area planted alongside the next year’s crop.
While the mix as it stands would not be appropriate for Australia, containing species categorised as weeds here, Syngenta growth awards winner and South Australian farmer David Heinjus said the idea had merit.
“It is an interesting concept that requires further understanding here in Australia,” he said.
· Gregor Heard travelled to England as a guest of Syngenta as part of the Syngenta growth awards.