Friday, 30 July 2010

From Farmers Weekly Interactive (FWi)

More than 295,000ha of England's uplands has been signed up for environmental management under the Uplands Entry Level Stewardship scheme.

Over 2,000 farmers have joined the scheme since the application period opened on 1 July, taking it more than half way towards Natural England's goal of covering 505,000ha of land covered with management agreements by next year.
The Uplands ELS, which replaces the Hill Farm Allowance, aims to reward farmers for mixing environmental stewardship, such as grassland management, restoring farm buildings with food production.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Wales - Young Entry Support Scheme

This strikes me as an excellent initiative.

Are we doing enough to encourage farming successors in other parts of the UK?

Monday, 19 July 2010

Heather Beetle Season

The time when heather beetle damage starts to be noticed is upon us again.  I am getting unconfirmed reports of damage from SW England and at Langholm.  After the damage at Langholm last year, a further outbreak is to be expected as the beetle's predators are unlikely to have built to a level to control the outbreak yet.

The results we collated for the 2009 season are still on the Trust's website and I will keep this page open and update it with 2010 reports as these become available.  This page also contains links to our guidance document and the review of Heather Beetle carried out by The University of Liverpool.

If you have an outbreak, or are worried that you might have one, please could you send me details.  If you would like to speak to me about the outbreak it would help to have some photographs to give me a feel for the level of damage.

If the damage is confirmed to be as a result of heather beetle, it would be very helpful if you could complete the survey form that can be downloaded from the website so that we can collate the data in the same format on receipt.  Please note that the Freepost address is no longer available and if returning the form by post, you will need to add a stamp.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Scotland: Bracken Control Event

I flagged this event previously but I can confirm that it will take place in Glenshee on Wednesday, 4th August.  Prof Rob Marrs and Roderick Robinson, a specialist in chemical control of bracken, will be speaking at the event.

We are now taking bookings and the booking form can be found as part of the flyer that is available from the Trust's website.

We are still working up the other two events that will form part of the SRDP funded Upland Managment; Rights & Wrongs project.  These events will cover heather restoration (October / November 2010) & muirburn (March 2011); I will let you know when more details are available.

Windfarms only giving half power

One for the windfarm sceptics.  See the Scotsman's article.

After sailing for two weeks in late June on the west coast of Scotland, I can vouch for the lack of wind during that period and the inactivity of many of the windfarms that can be seen from the sea.

Wind is an energy source that has been ignored until recently, but are we in danger of putting too many eggs in the wind farm basket?  Are we devoting enough resources to developing alternative sources of energy - wave, power, hydro or even nuclear?

Friday, 16 July 2010

Biodiversity: 10 Messages for 2010

The EU Environment Agency is publishing 10 messages for 2010 about biodiversity as part of the International Year of Biodiversity.  The messages are straightforward and easily digested if you have time for a skim through them.

Only seven of the ten are on the website at present, with the most important from my perspective relating to mountain ecosystems still to come.  With a bit of luck they will have all ten available by the end of the year!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


Taken from the Rural Enterprise Solutions Knowledge Network Weekly Summary

Biochar is a fine-grained, highly porous material similar to charcoal, that is produced from the decomposition of plant-derived organic matter (biomass) in a low- or zero-oxygen environment (a process known as pyrolysis).  Biochar is already found in soils around the world as a consequence of naturally-occurring fires and, in the Amazon, as a deliberate result of its addition by past human populations (the so-called terra preta soils). These terra preta soils are famous for enhancing the year-on-year fertility of soils and are, nowadays, highly valued as composts. 

Contemporary interest in biochar is, first and foremost, driven by its potential role as a response to the problem of climate change. This is through the long-term storage of carbon in soils in a stable form. If untreated (i.e. non-pyrolysed) organic matter is added to soils, many of the nutrients contained therein are released. The carbon in the material is rapidly converted into carbon dioxide (‘mineralised’) and released to the atmosphere. Usually, all the carbon has disappeared as CO2 within 1 to 5 years, which is why adding organic matter to soils doesn’t help very much in efforts to limit climate change. By contrast, the carbon atoms in biochar molecules are strongly bound to one another, and this makes biochar resistant to attack and decomposition by micro-organisms. 

The full report can be downloaded from the Defra website.

In my view, this means that biochar could be useful stuff.  The next question is can it be produced as a product of heather burning?

Friday, 9 July 2010

Scotland - The Future of Single Farm Payments

For those wanting a quick summary of the progress of the Pack Inquiry and how the future looks, I suggest the latest bulletin provided by Lindsays WS which can be found here.  Other topics that may also be of interest are covered in the same bulletin.

Full details about the Pack Inquiry are available from the Scottish Government's website.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

CRC Uplands Inquiry Report

The Commission for Rural Communities published its inquiry report High Ground, high potential - a future for England’s Upland Communities.
The Commission has since fallen victim to the Government’s financial cutbacks and has been scrapped. However, its report is worthy of careful consideration. True, it is based on research carried out in England but I doubt that anyone from other parts of the UK would dispute that its findings are broadly relevant across the whole country.

Some of the more interesting findings include a comment about the lack of leadership or vision in the uplands and how the inquiry had revealed dissatisfaction with the disjointed and sometimes confusing nature of current policies. Policies were criticised as ‘top down’, sporadic, short-term interventions. The report summarises the policy weaknesses as: non-participatory, one-size-fits-all, fragmented, and uninformed.
Conclusions - summary of requirements:
1. A new integrated strategy for the uplands
2. Strengthening leadership and momentum
3. Empowering communities in the uplands
4. A new approach to funding (a better targeted CAP)
5. Developing markets for carbon and water
6. Securing the future for hill farmers
7. Encouraging enterprise in new green growth areas
8. Raising aspirations: supporting the development of communities
9. Improving broadband and mobile telephone communications
10. Planning to enable sustainable upland communities

The content of this comes does not come as a surprise; these findings could have been taken from our Annual Reports.  What is perhaps surprising is that these issues have been recognised and presented to government.  It remains to be seen if this report produces any action.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Culling Mountain Hares For Tick And Louping-Ill Virus In Control

Knowledge of Scotland has published a Policy Briefing about research that has just been published.   Note that there are links to more detailed information from the sidebar of this briefing.

In summary, the briefing states that the evidence used to support the culling of mountain hares to control ticks, louping ill and increase grouse densities is limited and equivocal.

The research comments on the estate in Morayshire where it was shown that the culling of hares did help with the reduction of tick numbers and the prevalence of louping ill.  However, this is seen as an exception as there were very few other hosts on this estate, particularly deer.   The point is not that hares do not carry ticks, but that the culling of hares in the presence of other hosts will not be effective.

Before embarking on any management programme, it is important to dispel myths and apply fact. This is particularly true of a tick reduction programme. Great attention to detail is required by everyone involved in the management of the area (for example, sporting and agricultural tenants, owners, keepers) for the duration of the project which is likely to be at least five years, and above all, funding is required for the duration. If these requirements cannot be satisfied, I suggest it would be better not to start with a control programme and to invest the funds elsewhere.

Based on my experience gained on similar schemes in different parts of the country, I would be pleased to help anybody who believes they have a tick and louping ill problem.