Can flowering seed mixes fit with an integrated approach?
Sowing flowering seed mixes in field margins or other areas of farmland can support growers’ Integrated Pest Management efforts. Find out more below.
Flowering seed mixes are compatible with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) when designed to promote biological pest control.
Work carried out as part of the Ecostac project and other similar projects has shown that, in addition to boosting pollination and pest control when employed as stand-alone options, flowering field margins may also be used in combination with other techniques and can serve a range of purposes.
When combined with other farm features, areas sown with flowering seed mixes can be particularly useful for providing habitat for beneficial insects.
Features such as hedgerows and wooded areas are often important overwintering sites for predators and enemies of crop pests. Sowing flowering seed mixes next to larger established hedges is not generally recommended, but winter and summer habitats relatively close together should be beneficial for insects that need both types of habitat.
Flowering field margins also act as buffers, protecting sensitive landscape features such as watercourses, and potentially minimising leaching and soil erosion from field edges.
Beyond field margins
Flowering seed mixes can also be sown onto fallow sites as cover (boosting beneficial insect populations, while potentially improving soils), as well as awkward corners that are not being used for anything else.
Recent studies have trialled flowering seed mixes sown as cover in wheelings to help ease compaction, while providing floral corridors for pollinators and natural enemies to access the crop interior.
Illustration copyright Dr David George, STC.
Floral mixes can be used:
- As a stand-alone field margin
- As an option for awkward corners
- As cover for wheelings and to alleviate compacted soils
- In conjunction with trap crops
- As soil improvers for lay sites
- In conjunction with hedges
- As buffers for water courses
- In conjunction with wooded edges
- To minimise erosion and leaching at field edges
- In conjunction with considered chemical use
Use with agrochemicals
As long as products are carefully chosen, many should be compatible with flowering seed mixes, even when sown next to crop fields. Beneficial insects living in a field margin should get some protection from the margin itself. Steps can be taken to stop the spray of chemicals drifting into the borders.