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Managing conservation practically and profitably together

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Farmer Richard Wright has moved a step closer to creating a ’mozaic’ of conservation at his home farm in Hardley, Norwich with 100 per cent of his fields containing conservation features.
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Conservation can work alongside high production #environment #arable

Richard Wright, conservation award winner, one year on #conservationaward

One year after winning the Ian MacNicol memorial trophy, which recognises outstanding contribution to farmland conservation, Mr Wright remains committed to his conservation work.

 

Last year, the award was presented by the Norfolk Farm Wildlife Advisory Group, which delivers expert guidance to farmers to help them integrate best practice environmental management into their commercial farm businesses.

 

Applying conservation

Applying conservation

Mr Wright farms a total of 179 hectares (442 acres) across two farms. This includes 78 ha (193 acres) of marshland which farms 110 beef cattle and 57 ha (141 acres) of arable land which grows wheat, barley, sugarbeet and maize.

 

The remaining 12 ha (30 acres) are part of the entry level and higher level stewardship scheme (ELS and HLS) of which features are scattered throughout the farm. So much so that every field contains at least one form of conservation.

 

The HLS scheme requires Mr Wright to target species of wildlife on-farm.

 

“We have to manage the farm to target species of wildlife from Grey partridge and Yellowhammers to wild flowers such as Marsh Orchid.” Says Mr Wright.

 

“To achieve this, we plant around 5,000 hedging plants a year producing 1000 metres of new hedge, we have several six metre wide wild flower strips for bees to feed on and numerous other incentives to help wildlife thrive.”

 

See also: Consider hedging on basic payments

 

“Although the higher level scheme gives us direct species to target, we can also work on the basic infrastructure to build a vibrant wildlife mosaic. For instance, we grow mainly malting barley which requires low nitrogen input which helps the water quality and improves species rich dykes.” He says.

 

Mr Wright’s love of wildlife is evident in his conservations efforts. He opts to locate conservation features in areas that best suit the targeted species rather than setting aside the least productive areas for conservation. The location of environmental features changes every few years in order to replenish the soil with nutrients.

 

The variety of on-farm features are capable of supporting wildlife all year round. This is achieved by providing a constant feed source, nesting sites and shelter which promotes further breeding.

HLS/ELS arable features

 

  • Floristically enhanced grass margins
  • Nectar flower mix
  • Hedgerow management
  • Over-winter stubbles
  • Wild bird seed mix plots
  • Uncropped cultivated area
  • Fallow strips
  • Low input spring cereals
  • Skylark plots x 10
  • Hedgerow planting and restoration
  • Beetle bank
  • Bat boxes x 15
  • Two and six metre buffer strips
  • In field pond
  • Corner field management

Leavs Packaging

Leavs Packaging

Mr Wright is not only farm manager of R.G Wright and Sons but is the founder of organic packaging business, Leavs.

 

“Three years ago, I developed a new businss producing organic void fill packaging made up from farm renewable products.”

 

“Discarded packages in the UK makes up a quarter of all waste shipped off to land fill sites. This form of packaging is degradable but can also has alternative uses. Customers have got back to me to tell me they have used the packaging as potpourri and others had used it as a feed,” say Mr Wright.

 

There are various forms of packaging available which include home-grown products such as barley straw, leaves, flowers and maize blend which is all treat and coloured on-farm.

 

To find out more visit: www.leavs-packaging.co.uk

Importance of profitability

Importance of profitability

It is important to Mr Wright that conservation and farming work practically and profitably together. He says: “My own personal objective is to create a sustainable working farm which will produce high quality food at a reasonable price with minimum impact on the environment and which will also support a diverse pool of wildlife.”

 

Mr Wright has split his farm into three different tiers which each have various levels of restrictions. This ensures he always has an area which he can farm productively without limitations.

 

He says: “Our grass land for beef production is split between three areas of conservation ranging from low level conservation area with low level restrictions which will allow us to farm the beef to their full potential but with a basic payment, to top level conservation area with maximum conservation benefit with full restrictions on grazing and hay production but it also comes with an enhanced payment.”

 

Apart from increased biodiversity, extensive conservation reduces Mr Wright’s exposure to market volatility and guarantees incomes.

 

“On a year like this when grain prices have been on the floor, I am better off putting ground into conservation and the overall risk is far less,” says Mr Wright.

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