Individual study: Uncropped cultivated margins create good habitat for rare arable plants at a farm nature reserve Ranscombe Farm, Kent, UK
Still K.S. (2007) A future for rare arable plants. Aspects of Applied Biology, 81, 175-182
More than half of the 30 plant species that showed the greatest declines in Britain in the twentieth century were plants that grow in cultivated farmland. Conservation of rare arable plants has become a priority for plant conservation. The charity Plantlife manages Ranscombe Farm, in the North Kent Downs, as a nature reserve for arable plants.
In autumn 2004 and spring 2006, 6 m uncropped cultivated margins were established at Ranscombe Farm (a total length of 2 km in 2004, and 3 km in 2006).
A four hectare field (Kitchen Field) with a high diversity of rare arable plants, including blue pimpernel Anagallis arvensis spp. foemina and night-flowering catchfly Silene noctiflora, had increasing abundances of perennial weeds such as docks Rumex sp. and couch grass Elytrigia repens. The field had been managed for some years with shallow cultivation, in autumn only. In September 2005, the field was sprayed with glyphosate. It was deep ploughed or 'disked' in February 2006.
The uncropped cultivated margins established in autumn 2004 grew populations of hairy mallow Althaea hirsuta and broad-leaved cudweed Filago pyramidata in 2005.
The margins established in spring 2006 supported approximately 10,000 broad-leaved cudweed plants, the second largest population in the UK.
In 2006, following glyphosate application and deep ploughing, rare arable species including blue pimpernel and the endangered ground pine Ajuga chamaepitys reappeared in the Kitchen Field.
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