SEVERN Trent has been providing Worcestershire farmers with special grants to create wildlife meadows.

STEPS is a scheme where county farmers can apply for grants of up to £30,000 for projects like pesticide washdown areas with rainwater harvesting, over-winter cover crops and help with livestock fencing.

Farmers have also been awarded grants under Severn Trent’s biodiversity-focused Spring STEPS scheme to create wildlife meadows and feeding bird options.

So far, the scheme has awarded over 2,160 grants to farmers for projects that have led to the creation of more than 4,600 hectares of new habitat.

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The habitats support insect and mammal populations that can attract birds to the area which, in turn, supports the natural predator population – all helping control crop-damaging aphids and slugs.

The creation of the meadows – complete with wildflowers like the Ox-Eye Daisy and Lady’s Bedstraw - helps the farmer by aiding biodiversity to attract insects, the natural predators of crop pests. Field planting options may help prevent flooding, by improving soil biology and structure.

Tim Smith, a farmer from Malvern, has benefitted from a number of grants and has switched from arable farming to making his land an environmental and wildlife haven.

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He said: “STEPS has totally changed the way in which I farm. If I had not done these STEPS options I would not have seen the benefit and increase in wildlife which they bring and would not have entered the whole of the farm into a combination of wildlife schemes.

“I have learned a lot about establishing and maintaining these areas - which is totally different from arable farming - by doing small areas over several years.

"If the whole farm had been entered into a scheme in one go it would have been a mistake.”

“Farming, like a lot of industries, is facing challenging times at the moment. That is why schemes like STEPS can provide a valuable alternative income stream, especially in unproductive areas of land.

“The continued rise in machinery prices and volatility in commodity prices makes life interesting.

"Schemes like STEPS, giving a guaranteed income for the term of the scheme, help make things less uncertain.”