A European Innovation Partnership (EIP) project, which aims to improve biodiversity for pollinators on farms by working closely with farmers, was the subject of a recent Teagasc spring tillage webinar.
The Protecting Farmland Pollinators project is about developing small actions, which will allow biodiversity to co-exist within a productive farming systems, according to Dr Saorla Kavanagh of Biodiversity Ireland.
It aims to help farmers to provide small habitats that will offer food, safety and shelter on their farms for pollinators (wild bees, hoverflies) and other biodiversity.
Pollinators are vital for insect pollinated crops, fruits and vegetables and for the health of our environment.
However, farmland has experienced significant loss of wild pollinators over the last 50 years.
According to the National Biodiversity Data Centre, one third of Ireland’s 99 bee species are threatened with extinction.
The project is developing and testing a whole-farm pollinator scoring system to identify what management practices on Irish farmland could benefit pollinators.
The five-year project will be run with a group of 40 farmers who have been recruited across various farm types and intensity levels in Kildare and neighbouring counties.
Around 10 tillage farms are taking part, explains Dr Kavanagh.
The project is developing a whole-farm pollinator scoring system that can be easily calculated and understood.
It will also recommend low-cost actions they can take to work towards improving their whole farm for pollinators and other biodiversity in a measurable way which does not negatively impact on productivity.
Farmers will be rewarded on a results-based payment system, ie the higher the pollinator score of the farm, the more the farmer will be paid annually.
The Protecting Farmland Pollinators project is an EIP funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine (DAFM) under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.
The project is co-ordinated by the National Biodiversity Centre and the operational group includes Trinity College Dublin, Bord Bia, Macra Na Feirme, Teagasc and four representatives from the farming community.