Saving the small things that run the planet

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Invertebrates play a vital role in farmland- they pollinate our crops, recycle nutrients, eat crop pests, and help to maintain soil and water quality.

The pollination of many of our arable crops (such as oil seed rape, peas and beans) and fruit crops (such as apples, plums and strawberries) is carried out by insects, such as bumblebees, hoverflies, solitary bees and moths. These wild pollinators carry out the majority of crop pollination, including pollinating crops which domesticated honeybees are simply unable to do. Over the last few decades pollinator numbers have shown alarming declines, as a consequence of significant reductions in wildflowers across the country, and other factors such as disease and pesticide use.  

Farmland has the potential to support diverse and thriving communities of wild pollinators.  There are many ways to help these species at an individual field-scale, at a farm-scale or at a landscape-scale. By providing essential food resources, and sheltering and nesting areas, we can restore healthy pollinator populations, which in turn will help to pollinate the crops we need. For example current research suggests that managing 2% of arable land as flower-rich habitat will boost local populations of pollinators and total crop yields. Find further information on what you can do to help at a field-scale, farm-scale or landscape-scale.  

Farmers and landowners can get assistance to help them carry out works to benefit wild insect pollinators and other farm wildlife through agri-environment schemes. In England, the Countryside Stewardship programme provides funding to manage different habitats under a range of options designed to provide the resources our wildlife needs to thrive. This includes the Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife package, tailored for arable, pastoral and mixed farmland.

Financial support may also be offered to farmers and land managers through similar schemes in Wales (Glastir), Scotland (Scottish Rural Development Programme) and Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme).

Many invertebrates require a rich mix of habitats (a mosaic) throughout their lifecycles, as they often use different habitats for feeding than they do for breeding and sheltering. We have produced information sheets for land managers and farmers to recognise and manage the microhabitats that make up a mosaic. These sheets cover chalk downland, coastal grazing marsh, wood-pasture and heathland.

Further detailed information on grassland, woody habitats, arable land and wetlands and water will help you to recognise the important features on your land, and manage them for invertebrates and other farm wildlife.