What can farmers do to stop the decline of biodiversity in the Italian countryside? The European Union encourages a more respectful agriculture of nature through incentives on sustainable agricultural practices and actions that improve the environment.
Each Autonomous Region or Province describes in the Rural Development Program the agro-environmental schemes, which must be targeted to the local environmental reality, and the relative compensation. Adherence to these schemes by farmers is voluntary.
The types of actions that are financed are:
- the twenty-year retreat of arable land for environmental purposes . Wetlands, meadows alternating with shrubs and flooded meadows are recreated on farmland. All habitats almost disappeared as a result of the intensification of agriculture. They are also favored the maintenance or restoration of hedges, rows, ponds, dry stone walls and other elements of the agricultural ecosystem, which provide breeding and feeding sites to numerous birds such as the Little Averla, the Averla capirossa and the Monachella , as well as insects and wild plants. The hedges also reduce erosion, evaporation and protect the fields from the wind;
- the delay of the mowing season . This allows species that reproduce on the ground to successfully complete reproduction and breeding of offspring;
- maintenance or recovery of lawns . The meadows are among the habitats with the highest declining trend and are home to important species such as the Quail King, the Skylark and the Quail. It would be important for the mowing not to be carried out during breeding, ie between the end of February and the end of July;
- maintenance of extensive pastures and farms . The intensification of animal husbandry has led to the almost disappearance of pastures and the concentration of cattle in large industrial stables. The pastures, the presence of outdoor livestock and the permanence of modest stables favor the conservation of many wild plants, insects, mammals and birds, such as the hen, the Grillaio, the Ortolano, the Calandro, the Tottavilla and the swallow;
- the late plowing of the stubble . The maintenance of harvest residues in the fields during the winter provides an important source of precious seeds and shelter to many birds during the most difficult period of the year. Moreover, the vegetation that grows up among the stubble has a rich fauna of insects;
- organic farming . It is a method of agricultural production that does not use synthetic pesticides and herbicides, uses as a single fertilizer the organic type (manure or compost), ensures the defense of crops from diseases, insects and weeds through prevention and uses the force of natural laws to increase yields and disease resistance. This is why organic farms plant hedges and rows, make crop rotation and diversify production.
The cleaning of the ditches
In the ditches grow herbaceous, arboreal and shrub species of various kinds that have been “hunted” from the cultivated fields and on which a rich community of animals is concentrated. Ditch cleaning operations (which should never be cemented or replaced by underground drainage) should only be carried out by mechanical means between August and December, when amphibians, birds, reptiles and invertebrates are not engaged in reproductive activities