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FARM WALKS WITH THE SOIL FARMERS OF THE YEAR 2018 The winners of the FCCT Soil Farmer of the Year competition opened their gates over four days and provided a veritable masterclass in managing soils. Spanning a range of soil types, management systems and enterprises, attending farmers gained insights into their award winning management and a better understanding as to why these farms had been picked as the top three in this year’s competition. The Soil Farmer of the Year Competition, now in its third year, is run by the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit and Innovation for Agriculture. The competition aims to find farmers and growers who are engaged with, and passionate about managing their soils in a way which supports productive agriculture, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and builds soil health, organic matter and ultimately, carbon. For the first time this year, some of our finalists were presented with their certificates at

been working on improving his soils for the last 20 years, and moved to a notill system 12 years ago, being flexible with both management and rotations to prioritise soil health. Simon was chosen as the winner this year because of his passion and enthusiasm for soil management and this was evident during his farm walk. Simon focusses on building soil health with a combination of no-till, the use of homemade compost and a diverse rotation which grows healthy plants, allowing for a reduction

Groundswell, which was a fitting venue to recognise their achievements. The competition this year attracted a large number of high quality entries. Judging them is always challenging. However, from a list of high calibre finalists, the top three were announced and very kindly agreed to host farm walks to showcase their management to other farmers, explain a little bit of the journey that they have been on to get to this point and share ideas. Simon Cowell, this year’s winner, farms 400 acres of heavy clay with a large acreage below sea level. Simon has

in inputs. These were all things that were discussed during the walk. The first stop was the compost heap.

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Compost In the last 5 years, Simon has refined his compost making technique to produce a highly effective biological inoculant that makes a visible difference when it is applied. The compost includes horse manure, woodchip and garden waste, as well as gypsum (providing calcium and sulphur in a biological form) to counteract his high Magnesium levels, and is made to a strict method. The materials are

layered up in rows and then turned using a compost turner, every day to begin with and then less and monitored by using a temperature probe to keep the material below 70 degrees C, to protect the beneficial microbes. Once the compost has stopped heating up and is left, the fungi can start to grow, colonise the woody material and build associations. It is then left to mature, and then applied at between 2-4 tonnes per acre on the surface of fields that need it. Simon explains, “Compost is the best thing ever. If the soil is not in the right condition, when you apply biology it will not thrive. However if the biology make their home in the compost, when the compost is applied to the soil, they won’t die off, they have a stable home and can thrive. It is changing my soils, within a few weeks of an application you can see a visible difference.” This year Simon is aiming to apply a lower rate of compost across a wider acreage to maximise the benefits. After the compost heap the group continued looking at some of the different crops growing and discussing rotations. His long term vision is to get the soils into a position where they can generate all the nitrogen the crops need (he hasn’t applied P or K for the last 20 years), and get it so biologically active that the weeds won’t grow and the ISSUE 3 | SEPTEMBER 2018

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Direct Driller Issue 3  

Issue 3 Of Direct Driller magazine. The conservation agriculture magazine created by farmers for farmers. Subscribe for your free print c...

Direct Driller Issue 3  

Issue 3 Of Direct Driller magazine. The conservation agriculture magazine created by farmers for farmers. Subscribe for your free print c...

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