Delayed mowing

Delayed mowing would provide nectar and pollen for rapidly-vanishing insect species. A study showing that the biomass of insects in nature areas had declined by a massive 75pc in just 27 years in Bavaria shocked Germany into the gravity of the situation.

Massive loss of biodiversity has arrived in Europe in a big way and suddenly the powerful farming industry, along with chemical companies supplying devastating toxic  insecticides find themselves seriously challenged for the first time[1].

Clover in the lawn left for bees.

New measures boost organic ways of producing food and reducing toxic chemicals such a neonics. Wildlife in its broadest sense, including for example bees and butterflies is being supported by government.

But let's be honest about it; reducing herbicides means that farmers will have to make wholesale changes to current practices. It means in one sense seeing weeds as part of the biodiversity and their flowers that will underpin the insects that pollinate the crops, but also that they will consume a significant amount of soil nutrients and light.

This will certainly mean reduced production and higher costs to the housewife.

Many crops such as lucerne and clover for example can provide flowers that will foster pollinating insects; but they are usually cut before any nectar is produced.

Delayed mowing for a portion of the pasture, allowing the crops to flower, may marginally reduce production but would certainly support pollinators like honeybees that would greatly increase the yield of sunflowers, fruit orchards and linseed, for example.

Many berries, macadamia nuts and butternut produce almost no yield without insects. Delayed mowing of a portion of pastures would have immense positive consequences for biodiversity, but how do we support the clover farmer who in delaying mowing is providing food for bees that would pollinate plums and peaches? He may be altruistic but sees no personal benefit.

Clearly something has to change. We are witnessing mass extinction of the very insects that pollinate much of our food. Does a "silent spring" lie just around the corner with no bees available to buzz in the avocado trees, the fields of waving flax and the pumpkin patches that we are so dependent on?

It is estimated that one in four mouthfuls of our food is pollinated by honeybees.

In Europe less than 10pc of agricultural land is managed organically and the ambitious goal is to raise that to around 30 percent. In America less than 1% of farms are grown on the principles of humus and no weedicides. It comes as no surprise that the health status of the people in the United States is astonishingly low.

Clover

On a personal note a root of clover has somehow established itself in our lawn; our first thought was to weed it out. Then we noticed that the bees were foraging amongst the flowers. It is now time to cut the grass; should we practice delayed mowing of part of the patch?

That is the current feeling and not to discourage the clover as it spreads over our lawn. What is more important? Beautifully managed grass in front of our verandah to show off to our guests, or should we practice what we preach, delay the mowing and allow the invader to take over?

The hens will love the newly-mown clover added to their feed. All creatures great and small will be winners, but we will have an untidy lawn.


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  1. A grassroots push to save disappearing birds and bees forces change in Germany.  @ National Geographic

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