YORKSHIRE Dales hill farmers are being offered the chance to earn desperately needed extra income by replanting the areas' traditional flower-rich hay meadows.
Such meadows, once one of the wonders of the Dales, have almost died out in the past two decades as farmers were encouraged to increase fodder production by turning them over to silage. This not only produced uniform, mono-green hillsides but also greatly increased the dangers of river pollution from farm fertilisers.
Now, under the new Single Farm Payment Scheme - which hill farmers say will hit them extremely hard - Defra is encouraging them to earn extra stewardship grants by replanting meadows with traditional seed.
There is, sadly, a catch: a big shortage of such seed. But this problem is being tackled, Defra revealed yesterday, by a North York Moors farmer who has invented a machine that can collect a proportion of seed from the few existing meadows whilst allowing the remaining plants to flower again the following year.
His research has been backed by the two Yorkshire national parks, the Dales and the North York Moors, and some funding was provided by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.