Diverse legume leys: pollinator benefits

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Resource explained: 

This short guide explains the importance of using legume leys on your farm to help increase the diversity and abundance of pollinators. It is based on findings from the Defra-funded LegumeLINK project and research carried out by the University of Reading.

There is information on why it is good to plant a diverse legume ley, why provide for pollinators, and the benefits of legumes particularly in relation to attracting pollinators.

There is a useful quick-reference guide to some of the most important forage species you could use which includes brief information about which pollinators they particularly support. 

Findings & recommendations: 
  • Pollinators help increase the yield quality and quantity of some major fruit and vegetable crops, providing an estimated £440 million to UK agriculture every year (as of 2010). They also play a vital role in helping to maintain habitats, pollinate wild flowers and provide food resources for birds and other insects.
  • The steady decline there has been in pollinator groups has been attributed to habitat loss, pesticides and agricultural intensification.
  • While you can fix a large amount of nitrogen using simple clover and ryegrass mixes, the leys produced can be very susceptible to extreme climatic events and the capacity to attract pollinators is limited. Increasing the diversity of species in leys on your farm can benefit pollinators throughout the pollinating season and also help you to build in soil fertility.
  • Legumes are especially important as a food resource for pollinators outside of major crop flowering times.
  • Growing more diverse legume species over longer periods of time also attracts a more diverse range of pollinators.