Assessing populations of pests, pollinators and beneficials in cereals

Our Strategic Cereal Farm Scotland is setting out to reduce its reliance on pesticides by encouraging natural enemies. In order to measure how successful future trials are, it is important to assess the starting levels of key cereal pests, pollinators and beneficials.

Why is important to assess biodiversity in an arable farm?

  • Start: March 2020                             
  • End: Harvest 2021


To baseline biodiversity across the farm, including the prevalence of key cereal pests, their natural enemies and pollinators.

Managing pests while encouraging and supporting beneficial insects is an essential part of an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy and is a key component of sustainable crop production.

The number of available insecticides is declining, so it is increasingly important to use them only when absolutely necessary to safeguard their longevity. The Sustainable Use Directive (2009/128/EC) lists a number of provisions aimed at achieving the sustainable use of pesticides, including the promotion of low input regimes. Previous AHDB research reported that non-crop habitats are important sources of biodiversity.

The Strategic Cereal Farm Scotland is a larged mixed farm with areas of non-cropped land. The purpose of the baselining year is to assess the prevalence of key cereal pests, their natural enemies and pollinators. One long-term aim of the farm is to reduce reliance on pesticides by encouraging natural enemies and measures to encourage beneficials will be trialled during the course of the Strategic Farm project.

How will we assess populations of pollinators, pests and beneficials?

The assessments are split into beneficial plants and weeds, pests and natural enemies, and insect pollinators. This will provide data of floral resource availability as well as pest, pollinator and natural enemies abundance at key points in the growing season.

To reflect assessments being carried out at Strategic Cereal Farm East and Strategic Cereal Farm West as part of trials testing flowering strips to encourage beneficials, the assessments will be similar:

  • Pitfall traps
  • Water traps
  • Soliatary bee nests
  • Baited stations
  • Canopy assessmnets

At harvest, the farm will collect combine yield data for SRUC to analyse.

Useful resources

Flower strip trials at Strategic Cereal Farm East

Flower strip trials at Strategic Cereal Farm West

Research report: Using flowering seed mixes to support conservation efforts and improve crop management

AHDB Encyclopaedia of pests and natural enemies

Our Strategic Farms are an opportunity to see how to use our research on a commercial farm. Find out more about our Strategic Cereal Farm Scotland programme. 

Image of staff member Chris Leslie

Chris Leslie

Knowledge Exchange Manager – Cereals & Oilseeds