Farmland accounts for 74% of Oxfordshire’s land cover, of which 56% is under cereals farming and 30% under livestock grazing. Farm types vary: drystone walls define the arable land of the Cotswolds; large fields of mixed arable and pasture typify the Midvale Ridge; and hedged livestock farms dominate the Upper Thames Clay Vales.
Farmland can support a wide range of habitats and wildlife. Hedgerows, with their associated banks and ditches, are home to an amazing array of flowers, birds, butterflies, moths and mammals. Farmland ponds attract amphibians, reptiles and dragonflies, while arable weeds like cornflower and common poppy can grow at field edges. However, the intensification of farming has caused a massive decline in farmland biodiversity, particularly in farmland birds. Thus, the biodiversity value of farmland depends on good stewardship. Even less species-rich, agriculturally improved grasslands can be managed in a way that supports wildlife. Indeed, managing farmland sensitively helps to combat habitat fragmentation, provides vital links between protected sites and creates a more resilient landscape.
Since the Second World War, farming policies and practices have rapidly changed and intensified, causing dramatic declines in traditional farmland habitats and species. Changing management methods include decreases in mixed farming, moving from spring to autumn sowing of arable crops, switching from hay to silage production, increases in pesticide and fertiliser use, and removing non-cropped features like hedgerows. Additionally, agricultural pollutants now contribute 50-60% of nitrates, 20-30% of phosphates and 75% of soil, as sediment, to England’s waterways. Agriculture is very vulnerable to extreme weather events, so climate change will impact heavily on farmland nature.
For more information about Oxfordshire’s agriculture download this extract from the State of Nature 2017 report and visit the other wildlife and farming pages on this website. Download the practical handbook from WildCru about how to conserve wildlife on working farms in Britain.
Follow links below to organisations using research, tools and case studies to show how farms can address issues including sustainable management and conservation.
Linking Environment and Farming
Campaign for the Farmed Environment