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									                                                                                                                                                                                                 D Buckingham (
                                         Tussocky buffer strips boost overwintering insect populations and provide nesting habitat for birds and mammals.
                       on grassland
                       Buffer strips

                                         When grasses and herbs are left
                                         ungrazed or uncut long enough, it         BENEFITS FOR WILDLIFE

                                         allows them to produce a number of
                                         benefits to birds. They provide seeds,   Buffer strips can provide             food source for birds, especially   Tussocky vegetation will be
                                         large, long-lived insects, and develop   habitat rich in seeds                 when collecting food for chicks.    colonised by small mammals that
                                         a structure that can be used by                                                                                    are in turn hunted by kestrels and
                                                                                  and insects
                                         nesting birds. Leaving uncut margins     Broad-leaved plants that flower       Several ground-                     barn owls.
                                         around mown grass fields or fencing      and go to seed provide pollen,        nesting birds and
                                         off areas in grazed pasture can          nectar and seeds, benefiting          mammals will use
                                         provide such habitat. As well as         pollinating insect populations and    tussocky buffer strips
                                         being valuable habitats in their own     seed-eating birds such as linnets.    Rough grassland situated against
                                         right, they can be used to buffer
                                                                                                                        a short, dense hedge provides an
                                         boundary features such as                Rough grassland harbours large,       ideal nesting habitat for grey
                                         watercourses, hedgerows and walls.       long-lived insects whose life cycle   partridges, whitethroats and
                                         Buffer strips on grassland can be        would be disrupted by the             yellowhammers, while tall
                                         specifically managed under               mowing or grazing that takes          vegetation along damp areas
                                         Environmental Stewardship.               place on the rest of the field.       such as ditches will benefit
                                                                                  These insects are an important        reed buntings.
                                                                                                                                                            GUIDELINES OVERLEAF


 HOW CAN I CREATE AND MANAGE WILDLIFE-RICH BUFFER STRIPS?                                                                                                                        KEY POINTS
                                                                                                                                                                                 • Buffer strips can be
Why create wildlife habitats on                              from livestock. Access to the area needs to be      easily established. A wider diversity of                          managed to provide
field margins?                                               maintained using temporary fencing or a gate        flowers can be established in soils with lower                    grassland rich in
• Field margins are often the least productive               to allow occasional management.                     fertility levels, ideally using native seed.                      invertebrates, seeds and
                                                         •   The area will need to be occasionally grazed      • These habitats are best sited in areas                            small mammals.
  parts of a field, where factors such as shade,
  compaction and less efficient input coverage               or cut to prevent domination by scrub –             that receive a lot of sunlight to attract
                                                                                                                                                                                 • Management can be
  generally reduce productivity.                             though leaving some patches of scrub to             insect activity.                                                  manipulated to create
• The management of buffer strips offers a                   develop will be desirable for many species.                                                                           tussocky grassland
  simple way of creating some very valuable              •   Management should occur from September            Other management considerations                                     or pollen- and nectar-
                                                             onwards, and different areas should be            • Once established, retain buffer strips if the                     rich habitats.
  wildlife habitats next to agriculturally
  improved grassland.                                        managed in different years to provide a             remainder of the field is cultivated and avoid
• They can be used to simplify machinery                     continuity of habitats around the farm.             fertilisers and pesticides drifting onto them.
  operations and keep machinery away from                •   It is possible to create tussocky grassland         Flowers and less competitive grasses begin
  roots, hedge growth and fences.                            without the need for fencing by not cutting         to disappear at the lowest levels of fertiliser
                                                             the margins of hay, silage or zero-grazed           application (25 kgN/ha). Herbicides also kill
Creating buffer strips                                       fields where subsequent grazing pressure is         beneficial herbs.
• Buffer strips can be any width, but usually                sufficiently light to maintain a tussocky         • If a pernicious weed problem develops, then
  vary between two and six metres. They can                  vegetation structure.                               the problem area can be topped or treated
  also be of variable width to straighten up field       •   Tussocky grassland can generally be                 by spot spraying with a selective herbicide
  boundaries, such as alongside meandering                   established from existing vegetation as plants      or by weed wiping.
  watercourses. Wider margins next to                        that favour the limited grazing or cutting will   • Unfenced buffer strips in fields that are
  hedgerows and watercourses can be                          gradually take over.                                mown can be marked with prominent stakes
  particularly beneficial in developing wide                                                                     to ensure the margin is not cut with the
  wildlife corridors and linking up natural              Wild flower grassland                                   main part of the field.                                         KEY
  habitats such as woodlands. As many of the             • Wild flower areas can be created in corners                                                                            ELS        = Entry Level
  birds that collect insects and seeds from                and margins of mown fields, where broad-
                                                           leaved flowering plants are present, by
                                                                                                                   USING ENVIRONMENTAL                                                           Stewardship
  these areas through the breeding season
  have small home ranges, the creation of                  simply leaving them uncut. These areas need             STEWARDSHIP                                                   OELS        = Organic Entry
  many small areas across the landscape will               to be annually grazed off or the vegetation cut                                                                                       Level Stewardship
  support more breeding birds.                             and removed in the autumn to prevent                     ELS    OELS
                                                                                                               •                   The ELS and OELS schemes                       HLS        = Higher Level
• Generally, two types of buffer strip can                 coarser grasses dominating.
                                                         • Where broad-leaved flowering plants are not             fund 2, 4 and 6 metre buffer strips on                                        Stewardship
  be adopted – tussocky grassland or wild
  flower areas.                                            present, a wild flower margin can be                    improved grassland and the buffering of in-
                                                                                                                                                                                   SA        = Set-aside
                                                           established using a suitable seed mix.                  field ponds in improved grassland. The HLS
Tussocky grassland                                         Knapweed, yarrow and legumes such as red                scheme funds enhanced buffer strips on
• Rough grassland can be created by                        clover and trefoils are valuable nectar sources         intensive grassland specifically managed to
  temporarily or permanently fencing off areas             for a variety of insects and can be relatively          benefit the species present on the site.

You can get further information on this and other ways of managing your farm for wildlife from:

           Agricultural Adviser,The RSPB,                            Farming and Wildlife Advisory
           UK Headquarters, The Lodge, Sandy,                        Group, NAC, Stoneleigh, Kenilworth,
           Bedfordshire SG19 2DL                                     Warwickshire                              The Game Conservancy Trust, Fordingbridge,                        For answers to all of your farm
           Tel: 01767 680551                                         CV8 2RX Tel: 024 7669 6699                Hampshire SP6 1EF Tel: 01425 652381                               wildlife enquiries, visit
                                                                                                                                  RSPB regd charity no 207076   223-1322-05-06

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