Country Corner - Taking a more natural approach to nature!

Weeds are wildflowers that attract bees and butterflies.
Weeds are wildflowers that attract bees and butterflies.

We all know changes in farming have been one of the main drivers in declines of farmland birds, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

For that reason, farmers are now paid not to plant crops on all their land.

Indeed they are paid not to plant some areas or even to plant wildflowers on some land.

Seed mixes for farmland conservation strips can be chosen for their nectar and pollen richness to encourage pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies.

Others are intended to provide seeds for birds to eat during winter and early spring.

Many incorporate both qualities.

Another option is not to plant,but simply to leave field margins uncultivated and allow them to weed over.

This third option can be particularly successful as the plants which grow are those most suited to the site.

Also there is a general rule of thumb that, the more common a plant is, the more insect species there are which depend upon it.

Of course the uncultivated option can be difficult for farmers to accept as they watch thistles, ragwort, mayweed and fat hen run riot.

As sure as beans are beans you can bet the farmer will not allow these 'weeds' to set seed.

Though butterflies, moths and many other species will lay their eggs on wildflowers in summer, it is all for nothing if the crop is then topped before the insects' life cycle has time to complete.

Now that Scotland has a new national pollinator policy, we need to learn relax our attitude to 'weeds'.

Weeds are wildflowers.

As regards whether all of this publicly-funded farm conservation has delivered a reversal in declines of farmland birds and insects, the evidence says no.

Brexit gives us a chance to devise a policy that delivers.

We must pay by results.