Post by alf1951 on Aug 3, 2015 5:43:17 GMT
I'm sorry if this is just a rant but activity in the field next to us over the weekend has stirred up some long held concerns.
We moved to our current home 20 years ago. The beck bordering our property was sufficiently well populated with aquatic life, including eels, to attract heron during the Summer months. There were wee beasties in abundance and by this time of year, I've usually accumulated a plentiful supply of (generally out of focus) images of bugs and beetles. This year, I can count on one hand the number of butterflies I've seen, no larvae, no ladybirds, in fact not much of anything. The unusual level of activity at the bird feeders this year is probably because there is little else for them to eat.
For most of the last 20 years the fields were occupied by sheep or cattle and the occasional crop for silage. Sheep are now a rare sight, understandable - no money in them. Dairy cattle are kept a couple of miles away, mostly indoors, and the fields around us now contain either oil seed rape or winter barley. Not hard to understand why there is a local decline in invertebrates. I know it's a global issue (Dirzo, R. et al; "Defaunation in the Anthropocene", Science 25 July 2014: Vol. 345 no. 6195 pp. 401-406) but there must be a lot could be done at a local level to better reduce this decline. Which brings me to this weekend.
Winter barley requires a up to 3 applications of fungicide each year, herbicides are sprayed in July and possibly in the Autumn along with insecticides to control aphid and/or nitrates to boost growth. I'm not sure what the effect of these have us when the sprays drift in our direction - we certainly smell it. Indoor cattle produce copious amounts of waste but there are rules about spraying slurry on the land to avoid run-off into water courses. In one of the wettest Summers I can recall, the field next to us is water-logged. It (and our house) is officially a flood risk area but that doesn't stop the farmer spraying slurry onto the field. Close to our house (and beck), the tractor and slurry tank sank into the soft, sodden ground. Only by dumping most of the contents to lighten the load was the farmer able to extricate himself from the mire - and return with more slurry to spray on the rest of the field. Guidelines suggest that slurry is NOT sprayed on waterlogged ground. No wonder we never see a heron anymore - there can be very little life left in the beck. I've no idea what to do about it other than further alienate the farmer.