Philip King
Jolyon King
07732 403 434
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There are many reasons why farm and field stubbles should be left over winter.  In recent modern crop rotations, land is cultivated immediately after harvest for winter crops, which has left little opportunity for wildlife to thrive.

The new thought process is to leave the stubbles from the harvest to overwinter, instead of cultivating the land immediately after harvest.


The benefits of leaving stubbles over winter

  1. Reduction in the autumn workload for the farmer and their staff
  2. Reduction in costs because not as much labour or machinery is needed
  3. Reduction in the amount of hard to control weed growth
  4. Reduction in the amount of soil run off
  5. Improvement in the health of the soil and its water quality
  6. Improvement in the habitat for wildlife to thrive
  7. Provision of food and shelter for a large range of birds and other wildlife

There are 2 types of stubble:

Basic overwintered stubble

The term ‘basic stubble’ is used to describe fields that have been harvested in the Autumn and their stubble is left until February the following year.  The best fields for basic stubble are ones that have a low level of grass weed and a low level of thistles

Enhanced overwintered stubble

This term refers to the stubble that’s been left after the Autumn harvest until July the following  year.  Leaving the stubble for longer will provide all year round shelter for birds, certain mammals and invertebrates.  They will also increase the amount of food avallable for the wildlife that inhabit these areas.  The best fields for enhanced overwintered stubble are where rare arable planting has occurred or there’s evidence of nesting lapwing populations.

It must be stated though, that stubbling of maize harvests should be avoided because they can actually increase soil erosion of surface run-off.  Considering that scientific research estimates that we’ve already lost 75% of our top soil globally, over the past few years, it’s important that we preserve the remaining soil we have left.

How to maximise the environmental benefits of overwinter stubble

  1. Try to establish stubble fields near to what we consider to be high value wildlife habitats – hedgerows, scrub and woodland, for instance
  2. They should be close to other seed-rich habitats on your land
  3. If you know there’s a field with a history of lapwing and skylark occupation
  4. If there are fields that are suitable for nesting turtle doves
  5. Warm, sunny and preferably south facing headlands, already known to support rare arable plants.
  6. Vary your straw stubble height – this creates the largest range of varied habitats suitable for a wide range of wildlife.

 Wildlife species that benefit for overwinter stubble habitats

Wildlife is a very important part of our eco-system, but due to modern farming techniques, much of their natural habitat has been eroded or destroyed.  It’s particularly important that we maintain the equilibrium of our eco-system and we need to do all that we can to provide food and shelter for our diverse and essential wildlife.  Typical species that benefit from overwinter stubble habitats are:

  • Partridge
  • Corn Bunting
  • Reed Bunting
  • Skylarks
  • Tree Sparrows
  • Yellow Hammers
  • Hares
  • Hedgehogs
  • Invertebrates such as spiders and insects

Invertebrates also have the added benefit to the farmer because they help minimise pest population within the crop.

To provide the very best habitat for wildlife with overwinter stubble, you can try to link non-crop habitats such as hedgerows, ponds and field margins together.  This will encourage wildlife to move between these habitats, whilst keeping sheltered and fed.

We are King Agriculture and operate an effective stubble to stubble service for farmers in and around Gloucestershire. We provide all services from the initial establishment to eventual harvest at an agreed fixed rate per acre for the year.

Our experience of over 35 years, modern machinery, technology  and conservation values combine to provide you with a first class service. 

For more information about us, take a look at our website or give us a call on 07732 403 434 – we’d be happy to help!