Farmers launch initiative to get bees buzzing again

Oxfordshire-based farmer David Christensen

A group of farmers from the Arla Foods dairy cooperative have launched a trial initiative to see whether their efforts for environmentally-friendly dairy farming can be broadened to help increase wild bee populations.

The news follows the recent UN report which revealed one million animal species are at risk of extinction globally. Of these species, a further report found pollinators, in particular some bees, have been in steady decline, with an average of 11 species lost in every square kilometre in the UK between 1980 and 2013.

Project Pollinator will see a trial of five farmers across the country set aside areas of land to help vital bee pollinators. They will cultivate, seed and farm the land to create the best possible habitat for a variety of insects, which are crucial in pollinating many of the crops we all rely on.

The focus of the trial will be to explore whether selecting and cultivating flowers specially for bees and farming the wildlife can help change the declining numbers of bees.

Marek Nowakowski of the Wildlife Farming Company, who is helping the farmers with the trial, said: “We look to farmers like those on Arla’s trial to lead the way in showing more of us in the UK how to better manage our balance with wildlife. Habitat quality and variety are the key to increasing biodiversity so this trial, treating wildlife as a crop and farming it so it grows by design, could have significant impact on the efficiency of the land in supporting the types of bees that are our greatest pollinators.”

The seed mix has been specially selected to attract and sustain multiple bee species and other wildlife, with two dozen wildflower and grass species sown and cultivated across half a hectare of land on each farm.

Graham Wilkinson, agriculture director for Arla Foods UK, said: “Having announced our ambition to be a carbon net zero company by 2050, we’re focusing our attention on creating tangible initiatives to achieve this. As well as addressing greenhouse gas emissions, our ambition stretches further to address biodiversity on farms.”

David Christensen, an Arla farmer based in Oxfordshire, said: “We can’t wait to see the results of this project on our farms. We won’t be farming lands of milk and honey though, this project is focused completely on creating an insect-friendly ecosystem.”