Project extension (Call 12)
We are very happy to have received the granting for additional funding from Call 12 of the Interreg NSR Project for the extension of the BEESPOKE project until June 2023!
With this extension we are aiming for the establishment of a legacy, broadening the project remit including additional and new activities.
Our plans for the project extension:
Environmentally friendly farming systems:
Across the NSR there is a growing interest in farming systems that work with nature to reduce their impact on the climate and support biodiversity. The solutions are arising under various umbrellas, such as Regenerative Agriculture in the UK and Nature-based agriculture in the Netherlands. These solutions aim to make optimal use of ecological processes and integrate them into farming practice.
These approaches also have other benefits for biodiversity and pollinators through a number of key components that support flowering plants: increasing on-farm plant diversity, incorporating livestock grazing on diverse herbal leys, cover cropping, companion planting and agroforestry.
- Development of flower-rich grasslands: Our partners conduct research to determine benefits for pollinators of herb-rich biodiversity supporting grasslands compared to intensively managed grasslands to inform the design of new optimised seed mixes for creating herb-rich grassland. (Netherlands & Germany)
- Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture for pollinators: Project Partners will investigating the benefits of Regenerative Agriculture for pollinators, measuring levels of crop and wild plant pollination on 10 farms that have already adopted the practice. (UK)
- Arable plants (weeds) as a resource for pollinators: We will look at the contribution of flowering weeds within crops as a resource for pollinators using a range of extensive datasets on weed levels in a range of arable crops, including 25-years data from our 330 ha farm in Leicestershire. Having evidence that these new farming systems benefit pollinators and thereby crop yields will help persuade more farmers to establish new habitats and better manage existing habitats for pollinators. (UK)
- Novel and new crops: A range of novel crops have potential to help diversify crop rotations and thereby plant diversity on farms and could offer more environmentally friendly alternatives. The importance of insect pollination for these flowering crops is not understood nor the types of pollinators they may support. We will set up demo sites to investigate these aspects. (NL)
Creating a legacy of wildflower seed mixes
One of the objectives of BEESPOKE to develop 14 seed mixes, for different crops and regions. This is an ongoing process, and mixes are being established in different demo areas. These “standard” mixtures have the added value that a clear establishing protocol and bee visitation data can be delivered. The demo-farms and areas within BEESPOKE are promoting adoption and evaluating the success of the different plant species to improve the mixture composition. On top of this, information is gathered on the relation between crop pollination and compatible wild pollinators. On the other hand, fruit growers have expressed concern about implementing floral interventions in case of accidental increases in fruit pests, by providing a ‘breeding’ ground for invertebrate pests. In addition, we recognise that not all plant species will establish in a seed mix and this is highly dependent on local conditions, especially soil type.
- New online tool to aid selection of appropriate wildflower mixes: We are working on to provide an online tool that will support land managers with questions regarding the establishment of flower strips. For example: which flower mixture boost pollination services for a specific crop of interest, in a specific country? Which species need extra floral resource support? Which plant species harbour potential pest species? (BE)
- Developing long-term management plans for flower mixes: Perennial flowering plants seem to contribute more to pollinator diversity compared to annual species. However, due to slower growth, less bloom and their sensitivity to intense agricultural activity, perennial mixes require appropriate long-term management. We therefore need to investigate more the effects of longer-term management that can help retain the flowering plant community. To achieve this we will assess the value of a phased mowing method versus standard management of flower strips on pollinator diversity and abundance. (BE)
- New initiative to boost local wildflower seed production: In some North Sea countries there are either no local seed producers or supplies are insufficient for the demand. We see the opportunity to connect to BEESPOKE knowledge, farmers and experts in seed production to develop new opportunities for wildflower seed production and also create new business opportunities for land managers. To initiate this process, bringing together relevant stakeholders, setting up demonstration areas and developing supporting guidelines. (BE)
- Demonstrating the wider biodiversity benefits of wildflower areas: Practices that aim to encourage pollinators either for pollination or their conservation also has wider benefits for the survival of wild plants that inhabit farmland, and the resources they provide through fruit and seed production for farmland birds and mammals. Increasing the amount and quality of flower-rich habitats may therefore impact on resources for other farmland wildlife providing additional incentive for farmers and policy makers to support greater establishment of such habitats. (UK)
Creating an outreach legacy
- New Swedish and Norwegian partners:
Kiviks Musteri: The Swedish company grows fruit and berries for their own range of products and has a broad public outreach. To support pollinators, they propose to build an island for pollinators/biodiversity in the centre of the orchard. The site will be made available to visiting researchers serving as a platform for pollinator conservation in orchards and creating a legacy of BEESPOKE. The site that includes a building with informative displays on fruit research will also be used for demonstration and training to extend the outreach of the project to fruit growers in Sweden.
NORSØK: The Norwegian Centre for Organic Agriculture (NORSØK) joined our project as well. NORSØK will establish and manage berry production demonstration sites and test a seed mix for growing Nordic host plants for pollinating insects. In collaboration with other partners develop best management practice guidelines for pollinators, customized berry production in Norway and other Nordic countries. NORSØK will also contribute to the development of standard protocols and training materials for measuring pollinators and pollination. This training materials will be put in use at four training events organised for berry growers in Norway
- New focus on “training the trainers”: To achieve a broader and longer lasting outreach we need to be training the trainers that educate other about the sowing and management of flower strips. We will develop comprehensive training materials with professional videos and presentations that will be made freely available to those involved in agricultural education.
- Additional stakeholder events: Having an extension to June 2023 offers the opportunity to participate in additional stakeholder events. VLM are proposing to attend the largest agricultural fair in Flanders “Agriflanders” and NIAB EMR will represent BEESPOKE at Fruit Focus, National Fruit Show and East Kent Fruit Society
- New alliances with non-farming stakeholders: Agricultural land also includes areas under the control of other land managers with one of the largest and most extensive being the network of ditches, 17,500 km alone in the UK. In the UK BEESPOKE was approached by the Water Management Alliance to help diversify existing ditch areas that are currently just grassland. GWCT will in collaboration with the WMA set-up five demonstration sites to test different seed mixes and management methods for easement strips alongside ditches.