The Festival of Farmland Biodiversity takes place throughout May.
It’s a 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 nurture wildlife.
Observing and appreciating nature on our farms should not be left to the experts. This is important for nature now and will also become very important for our income in the future.
Sometimes the wait for a spanking is worse than the spanking itself, and right now there’s a risk that the authors of the new Eco Schemes are treating us like brazen children.
Experts have been 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 an assessment of draft eco-schemes proposed by Member States and written by a range of environmental and wildlife NGOs.
While their perspective is valuable, their assessments are undermined by some fundamental flaws that highlight the need for us farmers to better support our environmental performance.
For example, no-till cultivation is dismissed lightly in the evaluation as having limited benefits and even possible disadvantages resulting from the use of herbicides.
My own experience is completely different, with the range and number of birds on no-till land increasing significantly compared to plowed land.
It looks to me like residue is left on the surface where birds can feed, and cover crops growing over the winter provide both food and shelter.
Also, I don’t know how appropriate it is for the assessment to criticize the use of herbicides when comparing no-till to conventional cropping systems and not to organic ones.
I have great admiration for the expertise of bird experts and have no doubts about the sincerity of the opinions expressed. However, my personal experience is completely at odds with their position on the issue, which is probably counterproductive.
This is a serious problem as the EU can be expected to pay attention to the reports it funds, even if the conclusions are based on ill-informed assumptions rather than on the ground evidence.
On the other hand, there are many environmental scientists, including those at the National Biodiversity Data Centre, who are happy to inform, encourage and collaborate with farmers.
Her approach is to look for ways to improve environmental outcomes without much of the ideological baggage that some of her peers bring with them.
As farmers, we should take every opportunity to share our experiences with them, both to improve the natural environment and to inform eco-programs that are more effective and less intrusive.
By celebrating the diversity of nature on our farms, the National Biodiversity Data Center demonstrates the important work that is already being done by farmers and makes us part of the solution, not just the problem.
Take a look around your yard and trust what is already there.
Andrew Bergin is a tiller near Athy, Co. Kildare
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/tillage/andrew-bergin-too-many-environmental-experts-airily-dismiss-the-good-work-we-farmers-do-for-nature-41645489.html Andrew Bergin: Too many environmental experts dismiss the good work that we farmers do for nature