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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:20   #1
Jane Turner
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Declining Song birds..Farming practises

There are a few threads at the moment on this subject blaming raptors/mapies/cats/spanish hunters for declines in songbirds. To me all of the significant blame can be laid at our door. Its the overuse of persticides/herbicides.... mono-culture hedgerowless drive towards intensive agriculture that has tipped the balance.

Spain has hunters...it also has the healthiest populations of raptors and songbirds in Europe....along with some of the more primitiae farming practices.
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:22   #2
Edward woodwood
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Jane....u gonna take responibilty for this thread? Making mischief again?
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:22   #3
Jane Turner
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Yes.. in a responsible adult way :)
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:24   #4
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Well said Jane. Perhaps you could bring this to the attention of Mr Tunicate!
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:28   #5
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Hi Jane,
I agree fully:while I've never been to Spain,the passerine populations on Bulgarian farmland are far healthier than those in NW Europe.
(admittedly,many passerines that I did see would have been migrants from elsewhere,thus artificially swelling the numbers,but stuff like Corn Bunting was extremely common)
If only the farmers could be subsidised to farm in a more ecologically sound fashion(this isn't a call for a return to the Dark Ages either!),then I'd imagine that many species would increase dramatically.
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:32   #6
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Actually there are grants farmers to farm in a more ecologically/environmentally responsible way; grants for set aside, for margins etc. I believe that for some of these there is a requirement to prove that certain species are present, eg Linnet, Corn Bunting... which is a very valuable contribution that us evryday birders can make.. assuming of course we send our records in!
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:33   #7
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Here we go blame the farmers if we can't blame anybody else.If we all packed in you'd soon be complaining about the state of the countryside and the cost of food.As I once said before I can take you to a RSPB reserve where the hedges used to be full of Yellowhammers,the farming round about is the same as its been for years,there are no Yellowhammers there now,so who do you blame for that?
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:38   #8
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Hi Geoff,
Maybe the farming in the immediate area of the reserve is the same,but other nearby farmland has become unattractive to the species?
Please note that I don't wish to have a go at farmers(two of my friends are farmers...AND birders!),as by and large they either encourage wildlife or at least leave it be,but their hands are tied in many respects by 'red tape'!
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:39   #9
Steve G
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Hi Geoff.
Its not the fault of farmers. Modern farming practice is driven by consumer whim & demand which farmers are obliged to follow to earn a crust. As consumers we should support change in farming practice that allows farmers to adopt good enviromental policies without suffering financially.
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:40   #10
Jane Turner
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Pain
Here we go blame the farmers if we can't blame anybody else.If we all packed in you'd soon be complaining about the state of the countryside and the cost of food.As I once said before I can take you to a RSPB reserve where the hedges used to be full of Yellowhammers,the farming round about is the same as its been for years,there are no Yellowhammers there now,so who do you blame for that?
Three points Geoff.

1. If you read what I wrote I was blaming humanity generally, not farmers in particular..... in the UK people have no concept of seasonality.. we expect uniform product uniform price. That put incredible pressure on the farming commnuity to raise yields which means more less waste grain, fewer pests and fewer weeds.

2. I don't believe for a second that in the period you are refering to there hasn't been an "improvement" in the crop grown...

3. Ecosytems are finely balanced... with a slight and gradual change there may often be a catastrophic and sudden effect.
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:44   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve G
Hi Geoff.
Its not the fault of farmers. Modern farming practice is driven by consumer whim & demand which farmers are obliged to follow to earn a crust. As consumers we should support change in farming practice that allows farmers to adopt good enviromental policies without suffering financially.
Driven by industrialists trying to increase their profits, more like.

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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:48   #12
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Do you know what really bugs me...


GM crops could be so good for nature ... imagine if crops were engineered to be pest resistant...there would be no need to treat that field with pesticides = cheaper crops fewer chemicals and more insects in field margins...


Instead GM crops are engineered to be herbicide resistant = more chemical and less diversity and of course more profits to Monsanto et al.
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 20:54   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by satrow
Driven by industrialists trying to increase their profits, more like.

Andy
Aye, perhaps in Wales. Up here most farmers are at least sympathetic to the plight of previously common farmland birds. If we are to reverse trends then farmers have to be firmly on board the Conservation wagon. That means enviromental agencies have to understand the fears, problems & worries of farmers rather than seeking to alienate them!
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 21:01   #14
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I think you may find Jane, that these 'pests' are just as important to the eco-system as birds, plants, etc etc
Eco-system means exactly that, a fine balance from the single cell creatures right up to, dare I say it, us.
Doing away with 'pests' deprives a part of this system of its food.
No, I'm sorry Jane, GM crops are a very very dangerous thing to be meddling in. We should let nature deal with its own 'nuisances' in its own way, we've come this far without GM food, I'm sure we'll survive without it.
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 21:10   #15
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These a probably disparate thoughts, but I type them as they occur to me...

I'm all for helping farmers to improve their practices ecologically speaking... it is unfair on the one had to demand wildlife-friendly procedures, whilst on the other hand expecting the farmer to subsidise the full cost.

Trouble is, I think we have to accept that the UK (with a very few exceptions) is just one big farm dotted with industrialised population centres.

There are too many of us in this small country making too many demands on the land.

The light at the end of the tunnel??? Maybe, just maybe our human population is stabilsing and the countryside that we have (farmed or otherwise) may just remain in tact.

With better education and information, we might just be able to provide a place for our wildlife (fauna and flora) to begin to flourish again.

GM??? I'm wa-a-a-a-y anti-GM, Jane... but you've given me pause for thought.
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 21:16   #16
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Smile Twisty.......

WHY ? on Earth are some Birders SO TWiSTY & MiSERABLE.......

The whole 'concept' of what constitutes 'farming' in the UK is starting to change & the future looks brighter to those who have an open mind.........

The thing is, even if 'we' de-mechanised every farm in the land & brought back the 'good old ways' then some birder somewhere would be bleating on about something.....

Isn't it just "We're Never Satisfied"..?

I think we're lucky we have any countryside left in UK given our 100's of years of 'progress'.

Luckily some people have their eye on the bigger picture.

Have a nice day.
S
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 21:20   #17
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I see your point Roger (and my gut instinct is to agree), but I think Jane's angle is not that pest-resistant crops will result in no pest... simply that the crop will not suffer from pest related disease.

I've got no experience here whatsoever, so I'll stick to generalisation.

If Organism A is a damaging pest to Crop B, then Farmer C might choose to use Chemical D to eliminate Organism A! Result no Organism A on Hedgerow E either, and therefore no food for Bird F that nests in Hedgerow E.

However, if Crop B is resistant to Organism A, Farmer C need not treat the area with Chemical D, and a supply of Organism A remains in Hedgrow E for Bird F.

How's that Jane, for support from "the other camp"?

(I hope you will all forgive me my little foolishness there, by the way!)
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 21:20   #18
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Jane, when you say pest resistant, are you referring to aphids, blackfly etc? If so, as Rogerk has pointed out, these "pests" are part of the ecosystem and are quite important! If we create fields of pest resistant crops, with no "bottom-end" foodchain life in it at all, you sure are not going to see much "top-end" foodchain life either.
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 21:22   #19
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Quote:
I think you may find Jane, that these 'pests' are just as important to the eco-system as birds, plants, etc etc
I beleive the point Jane was trying to make was that pest-resistant GM crops wouldn`t need spraying with (as many)pesticides - hence leaving far more insects in the fields, surrounds and hedges for birds and similar.
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 22:23   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jasonbirder
I beleive the point Jane was trying to make was that pest-resistant GM crops wouldn`t need spraying with (as many)pesticides - hence leaving far more insects in the fields, surrounds and hedges for birds and similar.
Precisely.. thereby leaving more insect food in the area and reducing chemical load....

and yes Birdman you saw the point too.

Except that Chemical D used to eliminate Organism A is very unlikey to be that specific and will also wipe out organisms f-infinitum. Result no Organism A-infiniutm on Hedgerow E either, and therefore no food for Bird F that nests in Hedgerow E.

Last edited by Jane Turner : Wednesday 4th February 2004 at 22:28.
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 22:37   #21
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A few quick points about farming and conservation:

1. A lot of conservation measures appear to farmers to be a constraint on production. Most farmers were brought up to produce food (not just quantity but quality as well) so any constraint on this can seem to them to go against the grain (plus most farmers like to be their own boss - often the only reason some stay in it these days). Therefore any conservation involvement in farming should bear these values in mind.
2. It should be remembered that even though a lot of measures for conservation-friendly farming involve the sorts of practices that farmers used to do, this doesn't mean that previous generations of farmers who used to carry out these 'traditional practices' actually wanted to do it that way. Farmers have long been brought up to produce food and so if you say to modern farmers "By using fewer pesticides, you'll be farming just like your ancestors did" then I think a lot of farmers would respond that their ancestors only farmed like that because it wasn't possible to farm more intensively. In other words, farming has changed a lot but the values of farmers aren't necessarily that different to how they have long been.
3. To fit in with these productive values, it has been advocated that farmers be subsidised to 'produce' wildlife and habitats in the same way that they produce livestock and crops. In other words, the government (or whoever) says "We'll pay you x pounds for every pair of Corn Buntings etc." The farmer then uses his knowledge and skills to earn money by producing this wildlife and integrates the production of wildlife habitat into the economics of his farm. The farmer still has a choice over how he uses his land but there is an economic return if he chooses to farm wildlife (as opposed to a constraint on his production of food in order to force him to tolerate wildlife). I'm not sure if this sort of scheme is operating yet in the UK but I think it has been tried elsewhere (with positive results). I'd be interested in knowing more about this and about how farming and wildlife conservation are integrated in other parts of the world.
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 22:45   #22
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Have a look at www.vinehousefarmbirdfoods.co.uk

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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 22:46   #23
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I see your point, but what I am getting at is that some of these insects rely on the crops themselves to survive, the crops are part of their ecosystem as much as the insects are part of the birds' ecosystem. If we stop the 'pests' from attacking crops altogether, we may also starve a good deal of the insect that rely on them.
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 23:06   #24
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rogerk..I would suspect that any insects reliant on crops are well doused with pesticides several times in the crop's life-cycle..
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Old Wednesday 4th February 2004, 23:50   #25
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capitalism is the root of all evil........

that's why the farmers do what they do

that's why the supermarkets do what they do

guess what we've gotta change.....
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