Research conducted by the University of Reading (and partly funded by Conservation Grade) published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology found that Fair to Nature farms support 20 percent more plant and butterfly species than conventionally managed farms.

However organic farms showed even more increased wildlife benefits, with the majority of the organic farms in the study also providing targeted habitats as part of their government funded Higher Level Stewardship schemes.

So what can we conclude for policy makers, brands and consumers from this research? Certainly the best model for biodiversity would be organic farms combined with Fair to Nature accreditation such as some of our organic Fair to Nature accredited brands. This approach provides habitats and a way of farming that ensures flourishing biodiversity and the protection of the environment, whilst on the majority of conventionally farmed land our wildlife continues to haemorrhage from the countryside.

win-win for productivity and wildlife. Corn Bunting an iconic species that's population is in free fall in the UK, providing targeted habitat on both organic and conventionally farmed land can reverse their parlous state. © S. G. Tonkin

Corn Bunting, an iconic species that’s population is in free fall in the UK. Providing targeted habitat on both organic and conventionally farmed land can reverse their parlous state. © S. G. Tonkin

Organic yields in the UK are naturally lower due to lower intensification, yet it is in general a far better system for the land and the environment and could be argued has far more longevity than simply conventional agriculture. Although my belief is organic farming techniques should be adopted by conventional farmers to ensure they protect the resources that they rely upon to grow good crops. Of course organic has its problems too, but Fair to Nature can provide solutions to this form of agriculture as well as their conventional counterpart. We shouldn’t of course ignore the displacement of agriculture due to lower yields and the impacts upon global eco-systems as a result.

Professor Simon Potts from the University of Reading, who co-authored this research, said: “Organic farming can be very good for supporting wildlife, but organic farmers are restricted in their use of conventional fertilisers and pesticides, so more land is needed to grow the same amount of food. The Fair to Nature approach shows that it may be possible to achieve a win-win for productivity and wildlife, through smart farm management practices underpinned by strong science”

Not one mechanism will provide everything needed but each can be part of a mix of solutions. This research clearly demonstrates the need for change through a range of differing and targeted solutions; organic, organic combined with Fair to Nature accreditation and Fair to Nature accreditation on conventionally managed farms. All being underpinned by good government and EU policies both through incentives schemes and mandatory measures.

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