Farmer's information
Bees & Butterfies
Other insects
The year round
Margins at Boxworth
Skylark patches


Sustainable Arable Farming For an Improved Environment (SAFFIE)

The SAFFIE experiment has now finished. The full report is available from the HGCA website. Download the booklet 'SAFFIE: Enhancing Arable Biodiversity - Six practical solutions for farmers'. A summary powerpoint and handout are available too, download from the publications page.

Peter Kendall, President NFU says-

Farming for food, bio-energy and wildlife

In common with the vast majority of arable farmers, I take great pride in how my farm looks and the wildlife it supports. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to hear a skylark singing on a spring morning, or to watch a barn owl hunting along a field margin on a summer's evening. But I also have to run a profitable farm, making its optimum contribution to the ever growing demand for crops for food and fuel. So, is it possible both to provide an attractive, wildlife-rich countryside, and world-class yields of top quality crops? The clear message from the SAFFIE project is yes, it is. If we combine intelligent research like this with smart science and the right incentives, farmers can rise to the challenge of providing the country with the food and fuel it needs, and a countryside of which we can all be proud. That is the way ahead.

Graham Wynne, Chief Executive RSPB says-

Thinking big for biodiversity

As one of the largest contributors arable farmers are the guardians of much of our farmland wildlife,which has specifically adapted to arable landscapes. Managing profitable intensive enterprises brings big environmental challenges, but also great opportunities. As one of the largest consortiums ever to work on arable biodiversity, SAFFIE had the capacity to think big. It took problems and ideas, developed and tested solutions, then rolled them out to the arable community. I'm particularly proud to see skylark plots in the countryside and options being developed for enhancing grass margins. SAFFIE is a significant milestone on the road towards sustainable rural businesses improving the environment.


Key findings (click to expand)

  • +     Skylark plots increase chick numbers by up to 50%

  • +    Wild flowers in field margins increase beneficial insects by up to 80%

  • +    Selective herbicides only in spring, benefit biodiversity within crops

  • +    Opening up grass margins improves farmland biodiversity

  • +     Skylark plots with open margins increase farmland birds four fold

  • +     Environmental stewardship increases biodiversity benefits

Partners and funders

Defra, the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) and Natural England (formerly English Nature) sponsored this project through the Sustainable Arable LINK programme. The industrial funders were British Potato Council, Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), Crop Protection Association, Home-Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA), Jonathan Tipples, Linking Environment And Farming (LEAF), Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd., Syngenta, the National Trust, and Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC. Other project partners included British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Central Science Laboratories, Centre for Agri-Environment Research - University of Reading, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and Game Conservancy Trust.