How does an arable farm from Cambridgeshire farm the CRT way? Nestled on 400 acres of CRT and then a further 350 acres in other agreements, totalling 750 acres in Cambridgeshire is CRT Trustee and tenant farmer Tim Scott. Tim has spent his entire life – from childhood to the present day – working on farms, his love for nature and farming led him to study at Whittle Agricultural College with placements on an arable and pig farm and an arable and veal calf farm. As well as being trained as an agronomist whilst working in the care industry. Tim became CRT's first tenant farmer after we acquired the Telegraph Field in 1993 and his habitat creation and conservation management has led to awards such as the Redlist Revival Life on Land Awards for the highest national density of grey partridges. So how does Tim create a cohabitated ecosystem on Lark Rise farm? 1. Growing at least 6 arable crops, grass and fallow (plus wild bird feed mixtures) Having various crops offer different habitats/different growth habits within the cropped area. Basically, greater diversity which offers more opportunities for wildlife 2. I’ve learnt to live with weeds at a manageable level Weeds tend to be the food source for insects and then the insects are the food source for birds and certainly their chicks. If you have too many weeds, then they will outcompete the crop so it’s all about getting a balance 3. Varied cultivation systems Min Till, Plough, and Direct Drilling Again having various systems gives greater opportunities for more diversity of wildlife. Also, different cultivation systems allow different weeds to grow. This is not always a good thing, (as some will be to competitive with the crop) but it may give opportunities for rare arable weeds to reappear or if we have them already to flourish 4. Daylight harvesting only The phrase a rabbit caught in the headlights sums this up. If you harvest in daylight young chicks have a chance of escaping but if it’s at night, they will just be either killed by the combine or die of cold being detached from their mother 5. Harvest from the middle to each field edge This pushes wildlife to the edge of the field where they will seek sanctuary in hedges etc, rather than pushing them into the middle of the field where there is no habitat and no safety 6. Limited use of crop protection products (not organic) Basically look closely at thresholds of pests and diseases and spray accordingly. Insecticides are largely never used mainly because we have high beneficial insect numbers that eat the pest insects 7. Narrow hedge cutting window and wait for berries to be eaten This is self-explanatory, basically let the birds eat the berries before you cut your hedges, these are vital food sources for them. 8. Varied management of hedges Some cut, some not, some laid, some annual cutting, some biannually, some with alternate side cutting. There is a common theme namely diversity. The more options you give birds the more species should come and live on the farm 9. Create a mosaic of crops and cultivation systems I’d said earlier we have varied crops, but we also try and not block crop. This basically means we try and not have two similar crops in adjacent fields. If a bird chooses to nest in a field that does not provide the necessary food for its chicks it will never have far to go to find a better food source in the neighbouring fields. 10. Try and not have to similar crops together Keep them spread out. This has the same reasoning as the above point. 11. Tend to have poorly drained fields Farmers will hate this one but basically wetter fields tend to encourage more wildlife, but the penalty will be significantly lower yields. 12. Have messy fields Though visually appears to farm poorly, but the reality is a massive attention to detail resulting in farming efficiently. Generally messy fields are good for wildlife. A nice weed free and uniform crop is the norm for mainstream farmers, but not for me and the accompanying wildlife. 13. Over wintered stubbles These are possibly the most important thing on the farm. By leaving the crop residues throughout the winter it provides both habitat and food in the form of spilled grain and weed seeds for birds to feed on throughout the winter. 14. Weedy stubbles These have a double benefit as they provide habitat and food for insects and their seeds provide food for birds. The weeds can also act as a cover crop in readiness for direct drilling. Basically, by having something living in the soil it maintains a good soil structure for following crops. 15. Varied management of grass margins Again it’s all about diversity. We have some areas regularly cut short, some left long and numerous variations in between 16. Hay making this starts from mid June onwards By cutting a little later than the norm it will give many ground nesting birds a better chance to hatch chicks before their nest sites are turned into a barren wasteland. Sadly if haymaking starts much later it tends to encourage ragwort and thistle to flourish and the goodness from the hay is lost as it turns into straw. 17. Occasional grazing of Meadows Where are you have grazing animals you will have poo and why you have poo you have insects. If you leave the animals on the land for too long they will lead all of the desirable wildflowers so hence we have grazing one year in three or similar. If you leave the animals on the land for too long you will lose some of the desirable wildflowers so hence we have grazing one year in three or similar. 18. Wild bird feeding We top up the natural food for birds with supplementary feeding around the farm. We subdivide some fields on an annual basis on occasions. This is simply offering greater diversity and ensures food supply throughout the harsh months when other resources are scarcer. 19. Create wildlife corridors across the farm I try and do this with my overwintered stubble. I will leave strips of fields uncultivated, so they create the aforementioned corridors. Birds can fly from one side of the farm to the other but smaller rodents like voles and mice will never venture across cultivated land but will happily live and move around in these stubbles. 20. Do not blitz the whole farm - staggered operations This will allow wildlife to seek sanctuary in neighbouring fields. Think wildlife with every operation!