The Payment by Results pilot which launched in 2016, has motivated farmers to develop more nature-friendly practices, resulting in a boost in local wildlife, a report has found.
The pilot was launched across two areas in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire and in Norfolk and Suffolk in the East of England, with clear environmental objectives to match the needs of the area.
The 34 farmers were provided with advise and training sessions but continued to have the freedom to choose how they manage their land to enhance the environment.
A report, published today (October 9) by project partners Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, has shown that the farmers have recorded a 43% increase score for number and diversity of seed-bearing plants than nearby sites which are under conventional funding schemes.
The trial areas for species-rich meadows also recorded a greater number of important plant species, such as pignut and eyebright which benefit bumblebees, butterflies and birds.
The report concludes that the result-based approach has ‘considerable potential’ for the future of the Environmental Land Management scheme.
Natural England Chair Tony Juniper said: ‘Today’s report shows that if we support our farmers with the right kind of training and guidence then we can achieve really positive results for wildlife.’
‘Farmers must be at the front and center of efforts to restore the natural environment and these results reveal huge potential for the future.’
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority deputy chair and farmer Neil Heseltine also said: ‘The project has demonstrated just how important it is to have trusted local advisors who can provide the training and support to empower the farmers, enabling them to farm in a way that’s a success for their business and for nature.’
‘We’re absolutely delighted that Defra is now funding an extension of the original EU-funded pilots for a further two and a half years. That will give time to refine the approach and to use the expertise of farmers in the Yorkshire Dales to help shape the future environmental policy.’
Earlier this year, a report found that when lending money, banks should reward farmers who look after the long-term health of their soil, water and biodiversity.
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