The Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss has said that the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which has a total budget of £900 million, will help protect bees and other pollinators as well as the wider countryside.
Over the next five years the new Countryside Stewardship scheme will offer grants to help improve our environment and countryside – with £85 million set aside to support projects in 2016.
Bees and pollinators are one of four main priorities for the scheme, which is being run on a competitive basis for the first time this year, with applications ranked and money only awarded to those who will make the biggest improvements in their local area. Extra points will be given to agreements working to support bees and pollinators and other farm wildlife.
Elizabeth Truss said, “This is the first ever countryside stewardship scheme that specifically combines help for bees and pollinators as well as wildlife, woodland and rivers. This will mean more margins and meadows with colourful wildflowers in our countryside. Productive farming goes hand in hand with improving the environment.”
However, NFU Vice President Guy Smith warned, “At this late stage, there are still a number of questions about how the scheme will work but we are committed to working with Defra and Natural England on its development and – more importantly – how it will be implemented on the ground.”
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Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss used a visit to the Royal Highland Show last month to announce £1.3 million of funding from the Agri-Tech Catalyst programme for soft fruit projects led by the James Hutton Institute and James Hutton Limited.
The projects will use the latest advancements in understanding plant genetics to identify traits in raspberries that make them more resilient to pests and diseases, and in blueberries, traits that are better adapted to growing in Scotland’s cooler climate.
Secretary Elizabeth Truss said, “Scottish berries are up there with Scottish beef and lamb as a top quality UK product and this research will only enhance our reputation for producing good food both here and abroad. These projects demonstrate that by investing in the most cutting-edge techniques, and working collaboratively across the UK to raise standards, we can boost productivity and help more Scottish and UK producers to compete in international markets.”
Professor Bob Ferrier, Director of Research Impact at the James Hutton Institute, added, “This research is essential for the sustainability and commercial success of the Scottish and UK berry industry. Through the UK government’s investment in applying scientific innovation to address challenges faced across the agri-food supply chain, we can help producers grow more robust, disease resistant soft fruit varieties that are better suited to the UK market and climate.”
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