HLS demonstration site at Rural Innovation Centre
Agricultural specialists from across the county came together to attend a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) workshop at the Royal Agricultural University’s (RAU) Rural innovation Centre at Harnhill Manor Farm last month (17 Dec), to discuss stewardship challenges and opportunities.
The HLS workshop, held in conjunction with Natural England and Kings, was attended by 50 local growers and farmers who contributed to key discussions around stewardship schemes, the latest HLS management guidance, and how to achieve the best outcome for the business as well as for farmland wildlife. Attendees included Richard Barnes, from Kings, Neil Harris, from Natural England, and Will Manley, Principal Lecturer in Land and Environmental Management at the RAU, Tom Overbury, RAU Farms Director, and Tony Norris, RAU Farms Manager.
Will Manley, who has been involved in this initiative from the start, said: “We’re all delighted with the establishment of the demonstration sites, as well as the enthusiasm shown by all of the farmers. We expect that the site and its on-going management will provide a valuable resource to students, local farmers, and academic staff.”
Tony Norris explained further: “Students study the agronomy of a range of crops and the management of a farm enterprise as a whole. We view growing Environmental Stewardship crops as deserving the same attention to detail as growing a crop of wheat or rape, with a big focus on the timeliness of operations and inputs.”
The workshop included the first official visit to the demonstration field, which showcases a range of wildlife friendly seed mixtures and management options. This prompted discussion around feature management, and how to optimise the longevity of pollen and nectar mixtures.
Developed in 2015, the 5.5 ha demonstration site is a collaborative initiative with Kings, supported by Natural England. The seed mixes include flower grass mixtures, pollen and nectar mixtures, and a range of wild bird seed mixtures. These can be used by farmers that are participating in the Environmental Stewardship programmes, as well as the newly launched Countryside Stewardship Scheme, and potentially as part of Greening Measures.