Europe, UK, Ireland

Potato agronomy: Headlands around crops ‘buzzing with life’

At a time when headlines are warning of an “insect apocalypse”, new research in the UK has found potato and vegetable growers are providing a hugely valuable habitat resource and insect species are thriving.

Potato growers are said to help promote biodiversity by planting green headlands around crops. CPM writers Lucy de la Pasture and Rob Jones report the latest findings which suggest that several predators are thriving.

De la Pasture and Jones write that monitoring of green headlands around highly productive fields in East Anglia last year has identified huge insect numbers and a vast array of biodiversity. Independent ecologist, Paul Lee, assessed over 36,000 invertebrates, collected from sweep netting on six farms on just two occasions over the summer 2018. Some green headland margins contained up to 55 different species.

Identifying 199 different insect species overall, it was the beetles and bugs that dominated the mixtures, he says. “But a number of insect groups that had suffered in successive cool wet summers, did particularly well in the warm dry conditions, particularly the flies and bee species.” Some solitary bee species have been increasing in both number and range across the UK over the past decade, benefitting from the trend to warmer temperatures.

Dr Chris Brown, ASDA senior director of sustainable sourcing adds, “It’s incredibly exciting and positive to see the results of independent monitoring that validates the benefits of growers’ good practice and enhancing the farmland environment.

Read the full report in CPM here