The Farmland Biodiversity Festival lasts throughout the month of May.
It’s that time of year when nature is bursting at the seams, and the National Biodiversity Data Center wants to highlight what farmers are doing to protect and encourage wildlife.
It should not be left to the experts to observe and value nature on our farms. It is important for nature now, and in the future it will become very important for our income as well.
Sometimes the wait for spanking is worse than the actual spanking, and there’s a danger right now that the authors of the new eco plans will treat us like bold kids.
Experts are described as ‘people who know more and more about less and less’, and some environmental scientists have little or no contact with farmers.
Last November EU funding supported the publication of draft evaluations of proposed eco plans by member states, written by several environmental and wildlife NGOs.
While their approach is valuable, their assessment is undermined by some fundamental flaws that clearly show the need for our farmers to better promote our environmental achievements.
For example, the establishment of an uncultivated crop is rejected in the assessment wind because of its limited benefits and even potential disadvantages from its herbicide use.
My own experience is completely different, the number and number of birds on uncultivated land has increased significantly.
To me it looks like the remains have been left on the surface where birds can feed, and are providing both food and shelter to crops that grow over the winter.
Furthermore, I don’t know how fair it is to criticize the use of herbicides when comparing No-Till with traditional crop establishment systems rather than organic.
I have great admiration for the expert knowledge of bird experts and do not doubt the sincerity of the opinions expressed. However, my personal experience is completely different with his position on the subject, which is likely to be counterproductive.
This is a serious problem because the EU can be expected to heed the reports it finances, even when the conclusions are based on poorly informed assumptions rather than on ground evidence.
On the other hand, there are many environmental scientists, including the National Biodiversity Data Center, who are happy to inform, encourage and support farmers.
His approach is to seek ways to improve environmental outcomes, without a lot of the ideological burden some of his peers bring to the table.
As farmers, we should take advantage of all opportunities to share our experiences with them, both to improve the natural environment and to inform eco plans that will be more effective and less intrusive.
By celebrating the diversity of nature on our farms, the National Biodiversity Data Center demonstrates the important work farmers are already doing, making us part of the solution, not the problem.
Take a look around your farm and give yourself credit for what you already have.
Andrew Bergin is a tillage farmer based in Athi, near Kildare