Field corners can be taken out of management in any farming system and provide a valuable pocket of wildlife habitat.
Field corners can, if well located, buffer key habitats such as small woodlands and patches of scrub, and help to reduce water and soil run-off. Successful field corners of tall grass tussocks and abundant flowering plants provide year-round habitat and food for a range of wildlife.
By either ceasing management or sowing grasses in small areas of up to 0.5ha, field corners can provide habitat diversity for wildlife, including beneficial insects and blend wildlife areas into the farmed area.
Field corners with limited management will develop longer vegetation which will provide nectar and pollen in the summer benefitting a variety of insect species including pollinator and pest predators. In the winter the dead seed heads, hollow stems and rough vegetation will provide key habitats for overwintering larvae and adult insects. With an abundance of insects and spiders, these areas will, in turn, be used by birds for feeding during the breeding season. Additionally field corners have been proven to provide suitable cover for species such as grey partridge. Thanks to minimal management, tussocky grass can also be valuable for small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Field corners can be of even greater value where they are along other high value habitats such as thick hedgerows or patches of small woodland or scrub, and close to ponds. They create a smooth transition between the natural and farmed areas, but also complement other habitats by providing open, often flower-rich habitats for a range of wildlife.
As well as field corners being ideal for wildlife, they can also be a useful tool for farmers to make use of areas which are difficult to access with farm machinery, and their simple management makes them an easy win.
Better results will be achieved when areas of longer vegetation are scattered widely across the farm landscape. Locating them close to other habitat features such as scrub patches, woodland, hedgerows, watercourses and any other key wildlife areas will provide connectivity between these habitats and allow wildlife to safely move through the landscape.
To achieve this, field corners should only be cut rarely. Aim to do this every 3-5 years, in autumn once flowers have bloomed and set seed. Where possible, consider leaving some areas uncut to act as a refuge for wildlife. For larger field corners, rotationally cutting half of the grass every 2-3 years is ideal to provide a more diverse grassland area.
If you have the opportunity to create more than one field corner for wildlife then it would be beneficial to seed some with wildflowers. These floristically-enhanced field corners will support more pollinators, but due to the need for annual cutting there will be a lack of over-wintering sites for insects which use seed heads, longer grass and hollow stems.
For added benefit, you can also create egg–laying features for grass snakes by making large piles from any cut vegetation from management activity on your field corners. These piles are best located in a sunny spot, away from frequently visited or sensitive areas (such as species rich grassland).
Here are some useful case studies and articles about how farmers are putting Farm Wildlife into practice on their farms
Case Study: Providing food and shelter for invertebrates in Autumn
Author: Catherine Jones, Buglife As the days continue to shorten, temperatures drop and the morning frosts start to appear, the value of autumnal vegetation for wildlife should not be underestimated. In addition to creating the striking frost-bitten scenery in autumn and winter, allowing tussocky grass and wildflower seed heads to remain uncut through winter, in…Read More
Case Study: Helping hedgehogs on farmland
Hedgehogs have been associated with farmland for centuries. Hedgehogs are insectivores, foraging in fields and on grassland for worms, and along field margins and at the base of hedgerows for beetles, snails and other invertebrates. They are considered a generalist species, but as the dominant habitat in the UK, farmland is particularly important for hedgehogs.Read More