Agricultural intensification is a leading cause of global biodiversity loss, especially for threatened and near-threatened species. One widely implemented response is 'wildlife-friendly farming', involving the close integration of conservation and extensive farming practices within agricultural landscapes. However, the putative benefits from this controversial policy are currently either unknown or thought unlikely to extend to rare and declining species. Here, we show that new, evidence-based approaches to habitat creation on intensively managed farmland in England can achieve large increases in plant, bee and bird species. In particular, we found that habitat enhancement methods designed to provide the requirements of sensitive target biota consistently increased the richness and abundance of both rare and common species, with 10-fold to greater than 100-fold more rare species per sample area than generalized conventional conservation measures. Furthermore, targeting landscapes of high species richness amplified beneficial effects on the least mobile taxa: plants and bees. Our results provide the first unequivocal support for a national wildlife-friendly farming policy and suggest that this approach should be implemented much more extensively to address global biodiversity loss. However, to be effective, these conservation measures must be evidence-based, and developed using sound knowledge of the ecological requirements of key species.