Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 1


1.  The following is a brief summary of some of the hypothetical benefits for biodiversity conservation from organic farming.

  1.1  The majority of organic land, especially in middle England, is mixed farming; providing a close physical association between arable fields, pasture and livestock. There are a few exceptions: stockless arable systems being pioneered in East Anglia, the conservation implications of which have not yet been studied; upland systems where there is no scope for arable production; holdings which consist of SSSI or similar grassland where an arable phase is not wanted for conservation reasons; and small scale horticulture. The conservation benefits of mixed farming were recently reviewed by Self (in press)[25].

  1.2  The use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides is prohibited, thereby removing the direct and indirect problems for wildlife arising from agro-chemical use. The evidence for effects of pesticides on birds was reviewed by Campbell et al (1997)[26] and Ewald and Aebischer (1999)[27].

  1.3  One of the ways in which organic farmers control weeds is to use a variety of both crops and cultivation times during the rotation. Consequently, organic farms tend to have more variety of crop structure at any one time than an equivalent conventional farm and, where the soils are suitable, are more likely to use spring sown crops. The importance of this temporal diversity of crop structure was clearly demonstrated by Wilson et al (1997)[28] for skylarks.

  1.4  Soil Association organic standards (which cover the majority of organic production) now require the sympathetic management of wildlife rich infrastructure features such as hedges, and ditches. The Soil Association are currently reviewing this section of their standards with a view to making further improvements.

25   Self, M. In Press. Mixed Farming and Biodiversity in the English Countryside: A Review. English Nature Research Report. Back

26   Campbell, L H et al, 1997. A Review of the Indirect Effects of Pesticides on Birds. JNCC Report No. 227. Back

27   Ewald, J A & Aebischer N .J, 1999. Pesticide Use, Avian Food Resources and Bird Densities in Sussec. JNCC Report No. 296. Back

28   Wilson, J D, et al. 1997. Territory distribution and breeding success of skylarks. Alauda arvensis on organic and intensive farmland in southern England. Journal of Applied Ecology, 34 1462-1478. Back

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