This dataset consists of ecology data from 16 paired field sites; each pair consisting of an organic and conventional farm. A multiscale sampling design was employed to assess the impact of (i) location-within-field (field margin vs. edge vs. centre), (ii) crop type (arable cereal vs. permanent pasture), (iii) farm management (organic vs. conventional) and (iv) landscape-scale management (landscapes that contained low or high fractions of organic land) on a wide range of taxa. Studied taxa include birds, insect pollinators (hoverflies, bumblebees and solitary bees), epigeal arthropods, aphids and their natural enemies, earthworms and plants. The study is part of the NERC Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme. A move to organic farming can have significant effects on wildlife, soil and water quality, as well as changing the ways in which food is supplied, the economics of farm business and indeed the attitudes of farmers themselves. Two key questions were addressed in the SCALE project: what causes organic farms to be arranged in clusters at local, regional and national scales, rather than be spread more evenly throughout the landscape; and how do the ecological, hydrological, socio-economic and cultural impacts of organic farming vary due to neighbourhood effects at a variety of scales. The research was undertaken in 2006-2007 in two study sites: one in the English Midlands, and one in southern England. Both are sites in which organic farming has a 'strong' local presence, which we defined as 10 per cent or more organically managed land within a 10 km radius. Potential organic farms were identified through membership lists of organic farmers provided by two certification bodies (the Soil Association and the Organic Farmers and Growers). Most who were currently farming (i.e. their listing was not out of date) agreed to participate. Conventional farms were identified through telephone listings. Respondents' farms ranged in size from 40 to 3000 acres, with the majority farming between 100 and 1000 acres. Most were mixed crop-livestock farmers, with dairy most common in the southern site, and beef and/or sheep mixed with arable in the Midlands. In total, 48 farms were studied, of which 21 were organic farmers. No respondent had converted from organic to conventional production, whereas 17 had converted from conventional to organic farming. Twelve of the conventional farmers defined themselves as practicing low input agriculture. Farmer interview data from this study are available at the UK Data Archive under study number 6761. Soil data from agricultural land under differing crop and management regimes,are also available. Further documentation for this study may be found through the RELU Knowledge Portal and the project's ESRC funding award web page (see online resources).
Publication date: 2012-09-21
Research funded by Economic and Social Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Award Number: RES-227-25-0006 Botanical inventory and soil analyses on 42 selected case study farms with biodiverse grassland types: 12 lamb farms, 15 beef farms, 12 cheese farms, 3 control farms. Three grassland communities (mesotrophic, acid and calcareous) were so selected, represented by saltmarsh, moorland and heather for sheep farming; acid, calcareous and wet-neutral grasslands for beef farming; and circumneutral for on-farm cheese production. These were located using existing vegetation maps and surveys. For the botanical survey plant species were identified and their frequency recorded, as well as site and vegetation description, soil profile, soil depth, slope, aspect, stand area, sample area, mean height of layers of vegetation, altitude and geology. The data recorded on species cover and the calculated frequency class was then used to assign the assessed stand of vegetation to a published community or sub-community. For soil analyses 100 g soil samples were taken for each site to determine: sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium in soil by ICP-AES phosphate-phosphorus in soil by colorimetry pH in soil and water