A massive decline of insect pollinators over the past seven decades could be reversed by active and practical management, a leading researcher told Norfolk farmers.

Eastern Daily Press: Thomas Love of Walcott Farms has been elected president of Stalham Farmers' Club. Picture: Mark BullimoreThomas Love of Walcott Farms has been elected president of Stalham Farmers' Club. Picture: Mark Bullimore (Image: Archant Norfolk 2015)

Dr Lynn Dicks, of the University of East Anglia, addressed the 176th annual meeting of Stalham Farmers' Club at the Norfolk Mead Hotel, Coltishall, and highlighted the dramatic decline in pollinator populations since 1950.

However, she argued that farmers could rise to the challenge and help to reverse this decline by good, active management and providing more species-rich food sources for insects. One six-year survey of an arable enterprise in southern England had seen pollinator numbers increase despite taking 8pc of the farmed land out of production – and maintaining overall yields.

Given that pollinators boosted total annual farm production by an estimated £630m, there was a clear need to provide the right range and variety of habitat for pollinating insects throughout the year, she said.

Dr Dicks, of the School of Biological Sciences, who has studied wild bees and insects since 1995, said that some 92 ideas for farmers to improve the environment had been suggested. A website, ConservationEvidence.com listed many of these opportunities, she said.

She was thanked by retiring chairman Jonathan Deane, of Ingham, who stands down after the club's annual dinner next month. Broadland farmer Henry Alston, of Billockby Hall Farms, takes over as chairman, and Chris Borrett, of grain merchants Adams and Howling, as vice-chairman.

And former Norfolk farmers' leader Thomas Love was elected president for a three-year term following the retirement of William Donald, of Witton, near Walsham, who becomes an honorary life vice-president.

Mr Love becomes the fourth – or even the fifth – generation of his family to take a leading role in the club since it was formed in 1841. He thanked the retiring chairman Jonathan Deane for his outstanding leadership, especially in the successful 175th anniversary celebrations.