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Why two growers want to make more of beneficial insects

Flower-rich strips and grass margins have long been a feature on farms as part of environmental schemes, but they could also save farmers money by eliminating the need for insecticides. Instead of spraying insecticides, growers would farm beneficial insects as livestock to feast on pests such as aphids carrying barley yellow dwarf virus. 

These insects can also help out in situations where insecticides are no longer available or effective, such as controlling grain aphids, which are largely known to be resistant to pyrethroids. 

Having good-quality environmental strips is key, as they not only provide food for beneficials such as ladybirds and ground beetles, but they are also habitats where beneficials can thrive.

But there are many unanswered questions. For example, what species of plants should farmers include in their margins, and where should they be positioned relative to the crop? A group of six farmers is working with the AHDB and researchers as part of an Innovative Farmers field lab. They range from those just starting out with flowering strips to members with several years’ experience.

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