PARTRIDGE project influencing future agri-environment scheme in Scotland

10 July 2023 - Published by Francis Buner
Since the EU Interreg PARTRIDGE project started in 2016, one of the objectives of the programme has been to use the findings from research and monitoring to influence the design of agri-environment schemes in each of the participating countries. This has included beetle banks in Belgium, the PARTRIDGE mix in Germany and the wildlife plot in England. In Scotland, this objective has been particularly challenging as we waited for indication from the Scottish Government on the future shape of agri-environment support schemes. That was until earlier this year, when we gained insight following publication of the Scottish Government’s draft Agricultural Reform Programme.

Since 2016, the PARTRIDGE team in Scotland has been working hard to increase the duration that a wild bird seed mix can be established for.  Under the current AECS scheme, wild bird seed mixes could only be established for one year before they had to be moved elsewhere.  This was a problem as many of the species in the specially designed PARTRIDGE mix only appear in the second year, and so the mix could not deliver all of its potential benefits to wildlife if sown as an annual mix.

When the draft programme was published we were delighted to find that the measure ‘Wild Bird Cover’ is now listed as providing resources for biodiversity over 2-3 years, depending on the mix.  This would ensure that mixes like the Kings Interreg Grey PARTRIDGE mix would last for a number of years, ensuring that the habitat is able to provide nesting, brood-rearing and predation cover for grey partridges and many other farmland species, as well as food during the winter months.

This change has been achieved by the Scottish PARTRIDGE team working with NatureScot.  As well as being on the steering committee for the project, we also invited the NatureScot agricultural team to farm walks at Balgonie to discuss the project and speak with the farmer.  Going forward, we will continue to work with them on the new PepsiCo Farming Arable Biodiversity (FAB) project and look forward to testing new tools they are currently developing for the reform programme.

Fiona Torrance, Scottish PARTRIDGE project manager said, ‘we are absolutely delighted by this development.  As we have seen from the work at Balgonie and other PARTRIDGE demonstration sites, this habitat type delivers many different benefits for farmland biodiversity, provided it is left in place for the right amount of time.  By ensuring the mix is in the ground for 2-3 years,  it will provide benefits for farmland birds, pollinators, small mammals and other species, and we are excited to see how it can deliver for wildlife, as well as farmers across Scotland.

Although the programme is still in draft form, it is hoped that the work already undertaken, and now continuing at Balgonie, demonstrates that this habitat type delivers for biodiversity.


Written by Fiona Torrance, Scottish PARTRIDGE project manager at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust