Is farming to blame for the decline in farmland birds
This morning I read an article in the National Farmers Union magazine about the declines in farmland birds. The author was saying that as we are using less chemicals on our farms than we were doing 20 years ago he didn't see why farming should be to blame. These are my views on the subject:
We must realise that it is not the quantity of inputs we apply to our fields, it is when and how we apply them. For instance if we apply a weed killer at the wrong time it does not work. Weed killers do not kill birds, they starve them and I fully realise that most of our farmland birds do not eat weeds.
We are all getting advice on when and how to apply our chemicals and the chemicals we are using are better at their job than they were 20 years ago, our sprayers are far more efficient than they were 20 years ago, they also have to have an MOT and our operators have to be qualified, so we are now doing a far better job. We are applying less chemical and being more effective.
The weed killer of course kills the weeds and many insects are plant specific so if there is no Knotgrass there is no Knotgrass beetle, if there is no Groundsel and no Ragwort there is no Cinnabar moth and so on so and when there is a 100 acre field of wheat with no weeds in it and another one next to it with no weeds in it where are our farmland birds going to find the insects to feed their young on?
Birds cannot take their fledglings water, they have to take them moist food and that moist food is either insects or unripe seeds, both in the past supplied by weeds in our arable fields.
Every year our wheat fields are sprayed with three or more herbicides, two or more growth regulators, three or more fungicides, two insecticides and maybe a pre-harvest spray of roundup and many people are still wondering why our farmland birds are declining.