Rare beetles thriving in new ‘green headlands’ at East Anglian farm

Beet Carrion Beetle. Photo: Wikimedia/Sandy Rae

Beet Carrion Beetle. Photo: Wikimedia/Sandy Rae

Wikimedia/Sandy Rae

A farm has won recognition for its environmental work after newly-created habitats were found to be supporting important wildlife species – including a rare beetle.

Green headland mix alongside a field of potatoes. Picture: Mark Sanderson.Green headland mix alongside a field of potatoes. Picture: Mark Sanderson.

The Elveden Estate, which spans the Norfolk-Suffolk border near Thetford, won an Operation Pollinator Green Headland Award, part of an initiative by agrochemical and seed company Syngenta and Asda, in association with Kings Crops.

The project aims to plant headlands around potato and vegetable fields with a flower-rich green manure mix, which provide much-needed pollen and nectar sources for insects, as well as building the fertility of the soil.

Elveden’s farm manager Andrew Francis received the award for the highest number of species trapped and recorded on these “green headlands”, alongside potato, parsnip and carrot fields.

The awards were decided after insect monitoring last summer by independent entomologist Paul Lee, who reported that among the scarce beetles and ground-dwelling insects found at Elveden were beet carrion beetles – a species of conservation importance for the Brecks.

Andrew Francis at Elveden Farms, winner of an Operation Pollinator Green Headlands award. Picture: Mark Sanderson.Andrew Francis at Elveden Farms, winner of an Operation Pollinator Green Headlands award. Picture: Mark Sanderson.

“From two years of monitoring we can see that key species will make use of the green headland mix and that it has benefitted farm biodiversity,” he said.

“Although it is typically only in the ground for a relatively short period, key species will make use of the resource for parts of their life-cycle. “It’s an important additional habitat resource, alongside surrounding permanent features.”

Mr Lee added that vibrant insect life would also provide a valuable food resource for farmland birds.

Belinda Bailey, Syngenta’s environmental initiatives manager, highlighted that potato and root vegetable headlands are typically left uncropped, to aid management and harvesting of the field area.

However, these bare soil areas are potentially exposed to soil erosion or damage by heavy machinery and have little or no ecological value.

“The partnership with Asda and Kings has demonstrated a practical and viable technique to both protect the soil structure and provide a valuable feeding and habitat resource for invertebrates and other farmland biodiversity,” she said.

“We are now really keen for more growers to get involved, and to see how it can be integrated more extensively throughout farm rotations and situations, as well as to explore new agronomic aspects of the Green Headland potential.”

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