New tool launched to help growers plan field margins

12th Sep 2013

A web tool that helps growers choose the right seed mix for their field margins has been launched by the Horticultural Development Company (HDC) and Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC).

Growers of horticultural crops face increasing production pressures, including the diminishing availability of crop protection products and the need to comply with environmental legislation. The Automated Field Margin tool helps combat these issues by proposing suitable seed mixes that encourage natural pest enemies, as well as farmland birds and pollinators, as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy.

The tool comprises a catalogue of mixes generated from a large database with information collated from sources that include academic literature, the Biological Records Centre and Ecoflora. Unless carefully designed, field margins can attract pests or result in poor margin establishment; however the automated tool is designed to take these issues into account, combining differing crops and cropping regimes, budgets, soil types, and preference for annuals or perennials.

Designed for vegetable crops, the seed mixes have the advantage over standard field margin mixes of building up predatory insect communities by providing nectar sources and alternative prey at a stage when pest numbers are low. The option to include perennial flowers in the seed mixes reduces management inputs for farmers, increases longevity of the margins and provides over wintering sites for important beneficial insects.

Richard Moynan, Independent Agronomist said, “This easy-to-use tool will really help growers to identify the right pollinating field margin seed mix for their specific conditions.”

Cheryl Brewster, HDC Research Manager said, “It is widely acknowledged that establishing perennial field margins can help farms promote ecosystem services such as crop pollination, pest control and general biodiversity, but it’s important to get the mix right and to avoid flowers which may host pests specifically associated with growers’ crops – the tool can help do this.”

To access information on the benefits of field margins and to generate a seed mix tailored to your farm visit:

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