Inside Out: Farmers committed to wildlife habitats

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Media captionInside Out East investigates how farmers in the region remain committed to supporting the region's wildlife

Farmers in the East of England say they are committed to wildlife habitats on their land despite commercial pressures to increase food production.

Numbers of farmland birds have fallen by 50% since the 1970s according to the RSPB, with tree sparrows having experienced the most dramatic decline.

Robert Law, of Thrift Farm, Royston, said conservation had to be "targeted on the right areas".

He added doing environmental things was "about getting the balance right".

The BBC's Inside Out East has revealed the need to grow more food for an increasing population is once of the major causes for the decline in birds on our farmland.

RSPB figures show tree sparrows have reduced by about 95%, with the grey partridge population falling by 90%. Other species to suffer a decline include the lapwing, corn bunting, linnet and skylark.

Farmers face balancing the trade-off between maximising crops and leaving spaces for wildlife - but many farmers in the region are prepared to sacrifice productivity from the land for wildlife.

Nature friendly

Brian Finnerty, spokesperson for the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: "In addition to many of our farmers signing up for environment schemes - such as entry level stewardship where they receive a payment for managing wildlife measures on their farms - many are also undertaking voluntary measures.

Image caption The RSPB reports tree sparrows have declined by 95%

"Many of our farmers have been here for many years and they want to look after the land and its wildlife for the generations to come. The challenge is to produce more food while lessening the impact on the environment."

In the NFU's East Anglia region covering Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, 4881 farms have signed up to the stewardship scheme.

This equates to about 70% of the East's agricultural industry each giving at least 3-4% of their land over to helping wildlife and the environment.

James Bucher has created a number of nature friendly areas on his farm at Knettishall in Suffolk, including planting with a wild seed bird mix.

"The mix comprised of mustard, millet and triticalie which provides a valuable food source for the farmland birds over the winter," he said.

"I hold it quite dear to my heart, I hate hearing about the decline in species, I'm just glad we're able to, on this farm anyway, to help numbers".

Inside Out East is on Monday at 19:30 GMT on BBC One

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