WildEdges: A Silver Bullet for the Agricultural Sector?

Setting the scene for WildEdges

Why WildEdges? Farming is the foundation on which our lives are built. Farming shapes our landscapes, builds our economy, stocks our fridges and regulates our climate. However, the agricultural sector now finds itself in a precarious position, facing some of the most challenging problems for generations. 

Today’s era of farming, characterised by the long-standing Common Agricultural Policy and centralised Stewardship Schemes is drawing to a close, but the next era – championed by Natural Capital and blended finance – has not yet arrived. It is up to those within the agricultural sector – both public and private – to build a stable bridge between these two points, all whilst tackling a series of unprecedented and unexpected societal changes. We’re facing the breakdown of global supply chains at a time when the UK’s food self-sufficiency is at a 30 year low. Farmers have had their funding cut year on year whilst being asked to produce more for less. Furthermore, we are now experiencing the effects of climate change on our environment, which has long been the farmer’s greatest ally. 

However, the UK’s agricultural sector has a strong record against adversity, and there are many lights at the end of the tunnel. One of the most exciting ways in which we can connect this bridge is by connecting our landscapes. By creating and restoring habitat and wildlife corridors on our farms we could provide the agricultural sector with a silver bullet. 

This is why Land App has partnered with WildEast to launch the WildEdges campaign. Working together, WildEast and Land App will empower farmers with the toolkit that they need in order to transform their farmland edges into rich wildlife habitats. Created en mass, the WildEdge could become one of the agricultural sector’s best weapons for fighting off some of our most pressing challenges. With the click of a button, Land App users will be able to automatically generate a digital WildEdge Land Management Plan (LMP) using a Single Business Identifier (SBI number) for free. Equipped with accurate data layers from multiple research and Governmental bodies, users will be able to ‘go wild’ on the platform, selecting which areas would best suit the WildEdge pledge scheme. 

Outlined below are some of the biggest issues currently faced by farmers across the UK and our thoughts on how the implementation of WildEdges could stand to solve them.

With the WildEdge workflow, buffers – when needed – are added to a range of landscape features such as hedgerows, watercourses, ponds, footpaths and ditches. Image source: Getty Images – “Cow Parsley in early summer in the South Downs”

Agricultural funding drop-off:

The Government plans to replace farm subsidies made under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy with a post-Brexit payment scheme based on ‘public goods’. The first of these Environmental Land Management schemes (ELM) – the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) – has just been announced.

However, it will be imperative to agricultural incomes that farmers are in the best possible position to apply for the ELM schemes, which we already know will be based on farmers producing public goods such as water quality and biodiversity increase — all strong outputs from the creation of healthy WildEdges. Therefore, getting WildEdges mapped and drafted now will put farmers at the front of the queue when the ELM schemes launch.

Planting WildEdges in preparation for Natural Capital.
Dan (Land App) and Hugh (WildEast) discuss the future of Somerleyton under the new ELM schemes.

Global supply chain collapse:

Over the past few years, offset schemes have been a common talking point. However, money invested in environmental projects around the world – to balance company carbon footprints – has mostly been based in developing countries. 
Yet, the events of this year have shone a spotlight on the fragility of global exchange. In the aftermath, there will be a revitalisation of the importance of local food production and local offsetting projects. The private sector is being motivated to move money earmarked for environmental uplift closer to home. Those early adopters of WildEdges, which act as proven carbon sequesters and environmental enhancers, stand to see this wave of private green investment.

Biodiversity crisis:

Research recently published in The Journal of Applied Ecology shows how hedgerows and road verges can host more plant species than corresponding woodland and grassland. However, hedgerow densities have reduced by more than 75% in several parts of Europe since the 1960s. Our wildlife corridors filter air and water, improve pest management and crop pollination, provide health benefits and reduce erosion across landscapes. By pledging land over to a WildEdge you begin to unlock the added value that nature brings a farming business when connected. When it comes to biodiversity; connectivity is key and WildEdges are the ultimate connection for you and your farmed landscapes.

Hedgerow creation, WildEdges
You can print out your WildEdge management plan on Land App to articulate your vision of nature recovery in the field.

Climate change:

Climate change itself is one of the major current issues facing UK farms and farmers. There has been an increase in extreme weather nationally over the past few years, which has been drastically detrimental to crops. Unprecedented storms, heat waves, and extended winters have all taken a toll.

Climate change is a ‘Pandora’s box’ issue that needs to be addressed seriously at a global level. However, locally, WildEdges more than do their part, providing shelter from winds and rain, protecting crops and livestock and improving their productivity. They also slow and hold floodwaters improving the resilience of your land. When done at scale, this then has a massive impact on our wider climate.

A wild hedge can store up to 300 m³ of wood per kilometre length which equates to 60 to 100 tonnes of carbon per kilometre length in the aboveground biomass alone, depending on the dominant tree species.

If WildEast hit their 62,500 hectares of new WildEdge target for the East of England alone, we would see a significant reduction in the erratic nature of our local climates. By all creating WildEdges, we can all protect our local food supplies and reduce the growing agricultural risk.

WildEdges
Dan and Hugh discuss the practicalities of implementing WildEdges at Somerleyton.

Conclusion: Plant WildEdges

While the WildEdge may not be the silver bullet for every issue farmers are facing, we believe it has the potential to build a bridge into the next era of land management and farming. 

  • Sign up to the Land App for free today to pledge your WildEdges.
  • Visit WildEast to learn more about their nature recovery mission.

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