N ATU R E BASED S O LUTI O N S TO C L IM AT E CHANGE FARMER CASE STUDIES
DEL IVERING N ATU RE-BASE D FAR M ING SOLUT ION S TO TH E CLI MAT E CH A LLE N GE In the farming world, one year isn’t considered a long time at all; a timescale which doesn’t give much opportunity for change. However, this project has proved that this is not always the case, and that in just twelve months, amongst a group of forward thinking, talented, and adaptable farmers, a lot can be achieved. The farming and food industry is facing a period of unprecedent change – politically and climatically. We are in a new era in which farmers will be rewarded for the environmental services they deliver. With change comes opportunity and increasingly farmers are looking at more integrated, circular approaches to food production. The opportunities to drive the thinking, communication and practical actions to mitigate climate change are all increasing. Agriculture is uniquely placed to be part of the solution to climate change as it is both an emissions source and a sink. Farmers play a vital role by using nature to enhance the ability to mitigate climate change through more sustainable soil and water management, improving energy efficiencies, boosting biodiversity and ongoing monitoring and metrics.
How can this be achieved? How can farming sustain our natural environment whilst maintaining resilience? What support do farmers need? These were some of the questions we set out to answer as part of this project. Over the course of one year, LEAF supported ten farmers across England. They represent a variety of sectors and business sizes; each was starting out from a different place, but what united them all was their drive and commitment to approach the challenge of climate change through more nature-based farming. During this time, farmers have completed a carbon footprint tool, met with a bespoke adviser from the industry, took part in workshops and further engaged with LEAF. This booklet documents each of their unique stories. It outlines their motivations for change and the steps they are taking to make this these changes happen, covering a range of areas and collaborations. Crucially, it sets out the lessons learnt and next steps. LEAF intends this booklet to be read by anyone inside or outside the farming industry, for widespread peer-to-peer knowledge exchange, and insight into the positive, thriving, and resilient approach of the farmers with whom LEAF collaborates.
TH E PROJE CT FAR MERS RABY FARMS Robert Sullivan
HOPE FARM David Rose & James Thompson
COURTEENHALL J o h n n y Wa k e & Rosie Davies
GREAT TEW FARMS PARTNERSHIP Kate Henderson & C o l i n Wo o d w a r d
TRENANCE FARM Kate Hoare 4
HALL FARM Mark Coulman
FLEET FARM David Means
PARK FARM Paul Kelly & Peter Wilderspin
STOKE FARM Antony Pearce
M&R MORTON LT D Matthew Morton 5
T H E PR OJE CT ADVI S OR S ANDY GUY
Alastair Leake is the Director of Policy at The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) responsible for the
Andy Guy Consulting is a specialist consultancy
GWCT’s Research and Demonstration
delivering bespoke sustainable farming advice
Farm in Leicestershire, the Allerton
and solutions to farmers throughout the UK
Project, where high levels of
and Europe. With practical experience as a
biodiversity and an extensive faming
LEAF Demonstration Farmer (2004-2010) and
system co-exists. As a LEAF Innovation
a detailed understanding of LEAF Marque,
Centre, Alastair has been involved in
Andy Guy is probably the best qualified person
multiple high-profile and innovative
working in the area of sustainable food and
projects on regenerative agriculture,
farming in the UK.
crop and soil management, and IFM.
CHARLIE CURTIS As a sustainable agriculture agronomy specialist, Charlie has wide experience working in the agri-food industry. Over this time, she gained expertise in designing agroecological and regenerative farming models including ethical, economic and environmental strategies, including assessing soil health and nutrient management strategies and their effect on farm productivity, water quality, air quality, GHG emissions and carbon sequestration. Now Charlie works as an independent consultant running her own company Progressive Agriculture Ltd.
CORNWALL ENVIRONMENTAL C O N S U LTA N T S
Cornwall Environmental Consultants (CEC) Ltd act as the consultancy branch of Cornwall Wildlife Trusts, providing ecology and landscape solutions for land-based businesses. Since its launch in 1992, CEC has grown to become one of the South West’s leading suppliers of ecology, landscape architecture and arboriculture services.
LEAF endorsed Advisor and Consultant, George has a passion for IFM and specialist skills and experience in soil, grass, forage and livestock management. He also provides expertise in LEAN Management at the farm level, including business and systems planning, staff
G LO SSARY IFM
Integrated Farm Management
Linking Environment And Farming
Greenhouse Gas emissions
Carbon Dioxide equivalent
Soil Organic Matter
Integrated Pest Management
training, team development, process analysis and process integration. George is also the Net Zero Farm Manager at Coleg Cambria, an agricultural college in North Wales.
As Strategic Business Development Manager in the Crop Division at Fera Science Lts, Guy is an advocate for sustainable business, food and farming. With a background in soil and land management environmental sciences, Guy leads the Big Soil Community, a coordinated initiative to sample and analyse the biodiversity of agricultural to help develop sustainable agriculture and soil health.
WHY CALCUL ATE GREENHOUS E GAS EMI SSION S O N FA RMS? Agriculture is responsible for 9% of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the UK. Combined with related emissions from changing land use and deforestation, Agriculture accounts for approximately 30% of GHG emissions globally. However, it is an industry that is both a source and a sink for GHGs. Farmers hold a unique power to be an innovative part of the solution to climate change. Developing and promoting more climate positive farming through Integrated Farm Management (IFM) underpins LEAF’s ambitious 2021-2031 strategy to transform global farming and food systems. Currently there are over 65 different greenhouse gas calculators in existence, with no doubt more being developed now and in the future. All are designed to calculate GHG footprint for farmers and their businesses. Using a carbon calculator can change the way farmers view their farming practices and in turn, help reduce GHG emissions and increase farm energy resilience. The phrase ‘if you can’t measure it, then you cannot manage it’ is an important one in farming. As an industry, and as individual farmers, we must strive towards the net zero goal of 2040. The only way of understanding how to achieve this is by understanding where we are now.
Each of the project farmers has used a carbon foot printing tool to input their farm data, and were provided with a detailed carbon report of their business.
2 TOOLS WERE USED:
Agrecalc is a carbon footprint tool developed by SAC Consulting together with the Scottish Rural College, a LEAF Innovation Centre. It enables farm enterprises to identify and measure emissions, benchmark key performance indicators, Monitoring, measuring, protecting, and enhancing soil
identify mitigation strategies
quality and its ability to store and sequester carbon are
and monitor improvements.
core elements of LEAF’s IFM principles. Over the next 10
years, LEAF will strengthen its network of Demonstration Farms and Innovation Centres, creating a platform that supports Beacons of Excellence in circular agriculture, net zero and zero plastic waste. Through focusing on soil, water, air and nature we will gain a better understanding of the levers for change in addressing net zero carbon, environmental enhancement, and the reduction of GHG and waste, including plastic. Creating a strong platform to drive cutting edge adoption of technology, innovation and
The Farm Carbon Toolkit is an independent farmer-led enterprise, supporting other
management practices, LEAF farmers are well positioned
farmers to measure, understand
drive more resilient, nature-based action. We invite you
and act on their greenhouse gas
to join us on our journey towards more climate positive
emissions, build resilience and
inspire action on the ground. www.farmcarbontoolkit.org.uk
ANTON Y PEARCE , STOKE FA RM
About the farm Antony Pearce owns and manages Moat Farm, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, a 360ha farm producing cereal crops and turkeys. The 300ha of arable land is split equally between conventional (150ha) and regenerative (150ha) management, using a low-input and minimal-tillage approach. Having a background in biology and accountancy, exploring more regenerative, nature-based farming naturally made sense to Antony.
“I’m interested in biomimicry and in a nature-based farming systems, I believe we should try to mimic nature wherever possible. As I understand it, topsoil naturally formed in the great plains system of prairie grasses and roving herds of herbivores. In our current world, fixated with carbon capture, I came into this project with a mindset prioritised on storing soil carbon.” 10
NAME: Antony Pearce ENTERPRISE TYPE: Arable cereals, turkeys, sheep (on keep), regenerative/conventional PROPERTY SIZE: 1410 ha LOCATION: Alyesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK ANNUAL RAINFALL: 814.6mm SOIL: free-draining slightly acidic loam, base-rich loamy & clayey
Regenerative steppingstones By having a 50/50 split
“My journey started from purely a financial basis to begin with,
between conventional and
looking to reduce cost in our arable system. Quickly, I became
regenerative, Antony is
more interested in soil health and the effects of what not moving
able to assess what works
our soil very much had on this and trying to understand the
and what doesn’t, in terms
system better. Going down the worm hole that is regenerative
of strategies to build soil
education, started reading books written by Gabe Brown and
organic carbon and soil
then David Montgomery. It is a progressive journey that evolves
health. In addition, direct
and builds up knowledge and reassurance to be confident to take
steps. We started to invest heavily in wheat genetics to reduce
between the two systems
our fungicide spend, then built a greater confidence to reduce our
are also possible.
fertiliser spend and finally, minimising inputs.” 11
Given Antony’s clear drive and interest in more integrated, nature-based farming, it is no surprise that his focus is on maintaining both strong and sustained soil organic matter and crop yields. He addresses this by looking at the interactions between microorganisms in his soils, in particular fungi, and plants during the growing season.
“In natural systems, plants, microorganisms and fungi co-operate during the growing season. Over the years I have reduced my fungicide levels relying on crop genetic resistance rather than chemical control. This was driven by cost control and latterly the negative effects fungicides have on beneficial soil dwelling fungi. I am also worried that microbes use artificial N to breakdown soil organic carbon and release CO2, hence my efforts to reduce soil applied artificial N. Finally, I am increasingly anxious about the financial and environmental cost of herbicide stacking. I don’t believe I can avoid a heavy herbicide spend in winter crops.” In response to research showing the negative effects that synthetic pesticides can have on beneficial soil-dwelling fungi, Antony has reduced his use of fungicides in his cropping and relies more on varietal disease resistance. He has tried many methods to save costs whilst improving soil organic matter, using composts and organic manures at early stages to boost nutrients. One finding is that this can be an expensive means of helping soil organic matter increase, and at times not result in the best quality of soil improvement due to the import of plastic fragments. Antony is now largely concentrating on the effects of artificial N fertilisers on soil organic carbon sequestration and CO2 emissions.
Carbon positive practices The ambition to reduce artificial N inputs was strengthened by results in Antony’s carbon footprint report, where N2O emissions were much lower compared to others in the group who use more artificial N fertiliser. This is a strong example of how regenerative farming systems can have positive environmental climate benefits.
“I am quite a heavy land farmer, and I am not yet in an organic system. We have certainly reduced inputs dramatically. This showed in our results in the carbon assessing and we were quite well placed, which was surprising because up until then I had been led to believe the base measurement is significant when you increase yields, which has a diluting effect. This was not the case and inputs have the biggest impact.”
Outlook going forward Antony’s approach going forward is much of the same learning through trial and error. His site-specific, hybrid farming system has led to an end goal for an entirely integrated and regenerative system.
“The context of every farm is different. Knowing what you want to achieve is very important. have a local support group of like-minded farmers and I have a YouTube channel. I use this to reassure other growers. There are others out there who are thinking and learning about this way of farming but aren’t quite ready to take the next steps yet. The journey is a steep learning curve and can be quite financially damaging if you get it wrong.” Further integration of current practices (cover cropping, reduced/no-tillage) will be explored, with goals to assess and improve other natural resources on the farm. Water is one key resource here, with spring and summer droughts becoming increasingly more frequent in the UK as the effects of climate change develop. Developing a plan to support drought resilience through more sustainable water management has been a target for Antony since the beginning of the project.
R O B ERT SUL L I VAN, R A BY FA RMS
About the farm Robert Sullivan, Farm Director of Raby Farms, manages a large mixed arable and livestock farming business split between County Durham and Shropshire belonging to the historic Raby Estate. Covering 1410 ha in total, Raby’s mainstay is arable crop production, growing winter wheat for feed and bioethanol production, winter feed barley and oil seed rape. Raby’s herd of 25 spring calving Longhorn cattle are sold at 30-36 months. As well as the cattle, Raby has 1,300 Llyn breeding ewes that produce lambs fattened under a Shared Farming Agreement with a tenant farmer of the Estate. Meat from both enterprises is sold through catering outlets on the Estate.
NAME: Robert Sullivan ENTERPRISE TYPE: Arable cereals beef, sheep, grassland, regenerative/conventional PROPERTY SIZE: 1410 ha LOCATION: Raby Farms, County Durham, UK ANNUAL RAINFALL: 514.5mm SOIL: free-draining slightly acidic loam
Strengthening approaches Robert came into this project to
“We were going in the direction towards more nature-
investigate how more nature-
based farming before the project. Basically, what we
based farming can improve soil
needed was confirmation that we were doing the right
organic matter (SOM) as well as
things in the right way. I have been reassured that
overall soil health, and how this
we can do it properly and this has strengthened my
can bring additional benefits to
confidence. My advisor, George Fisher, gave advice
other aspects of the business. The
on the right seed mixtures for developing grass and
ultimate ambition is to become
forage areas. I am a fan of independent, tailored
net zero by reducing the business’s
advice, as this is my background too. The project has
carbon footprint, whilst enhancing
provided me with the reassurance and justification to
biodiversity and continuing to farm
build further resilience in the business and make a
Following concerns that SOM had dramatically reduced over the last 30 years, Robert had taken steps to improve this through: applying poultry litter and cattle farmyard manure (FYM) onto fields in place of using inorganic N fertilisers and reducing tillage where possible on cereal and oilseed crops. Additionally, Robert was keen to investigate how livestock could be integrated further into the system to improve soils across the rotation. Observing that yields were decreasing whilst variable inputs were increasing, reinforced his ambition to reduce artificial inputs and use more natural and less intensive ways to maintain crop production through improved soil health. Over the course of the project, artificial fertiliser costs rose dramatically, highlighting the financial importance of alternative crop nutrition strategies.
“In our arable enterprise, we are further down the regenerative route than we were before. On applying our organic manures, we were slightly apprehensive. After speaking with George, we have been increasing quantities in our application and we are more confident in what we are doing. We have doubled the amount of manure we use through our straw-for-muck deals (4000 tonnes, 2000 tonnes previously), put more herb and legume mixes on the grassland side of things for our lambs and have now started to bring grass into the arable rotation to increase SOM in the breaks.” 16
Carbon emissions “I have to be prepared to make decisions, but my decisions must be based on knowledge that I have obtained from somewhere. I have always relied on science to decide. The results of Agrecalc were fascinating. We will be using it again; I have started with it, and I will stick with it. How little pesticides impact emissions surprised me.” N2O came out as the highest source of emissions, primarily from bought in nitrogen fertilisers. In contrast, tree cover presented a huge carbon sequestration figure, almost offsetting Raby Farms’ total emissions from production.
Looking ahead The drive for Robert now is to encompass and integrate all these aspects to bring multiple benefits; incorporating more organic sources of fertiliser to increase soil N, with SOM high on the agenda when planning future management. For instance, since autumn 2021 different cover crops are being trialled including black mustard, phacelia, oats, fenugreek and clover. Ongoing measurements of SOM and N, assessment and field specific nutrient management will help drive nutrient use efficiency to support a cautious step-down approach to inorganic fertiliser inputs without compromising yields.
“This spring we’ll be measuring soil N and SOM, which we have done for a number of years. Because we are doing no/min till and we are applying organic manures, we are hoping for an improved figure. This will justify everything that we are doing and allow us to be confident in not using, artificial N. I target the low-SOM fields to address first, particularly utilising our organic manures, as I felt that was more important and the logical thing to do. P and K levels have also been a problem with some of our new fields. After nutrient testing, using the organic muck has shown to improve two things at once: SOM and nutrient levels.”
KATE HOARE , TRENANCE FARMS
About the farm Kate Hoare is a new-entrant dairy and beef farmer in Cornwall. Trenance Farm, is a 56 hectare Cornwall County Council owned site, primarily made up of permanent and short-term grassland. Having grown up on farms, Kate has had a relationship with farming throughout her life. In 2018, she took over the tenancy with her husband and children. Since then, Kate has built a dairy and beef herd, now amounting to 153 and 28 head, respectively. Kate operates the farming business following the whole farm principles of IFM, taking into consideration all aspects of the farm when caring for the primary dairy and beef enterprises. Livestock are grazed on permanent grassland and soils are tested regularly. Kate uses organic fertilisers wherever possible, including slurry digestate, to maintain the health of the grassland in an environmentally positive way. She also engages with her community as the leader of the local Young Farmers Club and has built strong relationships with local companies.
NAME: Kate Hoare ENTERPRISE TYPE: Dairy, beef, grassland, renewable fuel PROPERTY SIZE: 56 ha LOCATION: Trenance Farm, Cornwall, UK ANNUAL RAINFALL: 1007.36mm SOIL: free-draining slightly acid but base-rich soils
“We have started walking along
the path to improving the farm. It
With the help of a local renewable energy company,
can be both difficult and positive
Kate has been a pioneer of novel innovative
without a parent-structure behind
technology. With a methane anaerobic digestion
us. The way our parents farmed
plant placed within a biomethane slurry lagoon,
is very different to the way we are
slurry from the cattle is converted into vehicle fuel.
farming, and we are open to ideas.
Trenance Natural biomethane created through the
When taking on a farm for the first
breaking down of slurry organic matter is captured
time, it can be push, push, push,
and compressed and converted into renewable fuel
trying too hard and not getting
to run Cornwall Council vehicles. The by-product from
anywhere. What our forefathers
the pit is digestate, which is spread back onto the
have done is brilliant. But there is
land. Converting slurry into affordable, versatile and
also a lot of opportunity to expand
renewable fuel is a hugely beneficial circular approach,
and bring positive change by
which not only brings environmental payoffs but also
looking at the farm differently.”
generates additional income.
Carbon footprint As an Arla supplier, Kate already had experience in farm carbon accounting, so using Agrecalc was relatively straightforward. As expected, methane was the highest source of emissions. However, the amount of methane levels emitted from the slurry lagoon were not accounted for and, as was the case with many other farms in the project, neither was sequestered and stored carbon in grassland-soils, which may have had an impact on total emissions.
Habitat restoration Kate was keen to look at the overall ecological value of the farm to identify areas for management and improvement. Cornwall Environmental Consultants Ltd (Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s consultancy service) carried out a walkover site survey and identified the main areas for enhancement. She wanted to regenerate an old, dried-up pond at the bottom of the farm, bringing it back to its former wetland status. The number of ponds on farmlands has declined over recent years, yet they are important features within landscapes and for ecosystems, providing purified, clean freshwater, shade, shelter and food for many small animals. They also provide valuable habitats for a wide and diverse range of aquatic plants, invertebrates, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals, in addition to acting as ‘stepping stones’ that enable species to move through landscapes. Devising a plan to use rainwater harvested from the top of the slurry lagoon to re-wet the former pond and working with her Young Farmers Club, the former pond area will be cleared of overhanging vegetation and a pipe installed to take water from the lagoon to the pond. She hopes by summer 2022, wildlife will begin to thrive again in this area.
“We have learnt to take a step back and think of ways in which the landscape, habitats, cattle, business can work together. We have learnt a lot in this project. The advisor who came out to see us was just brilliant. It has opened my eyes to things that were right in front of me that I was not aware of. For instance, we choose not to use ivermectin as a wormer on our dry cows, which means dung beetles in our grazing fields aren’t harmed, which in turn positively effects other insects, bats and birds, having a positive impact on the biodiversity of our farm landscape. I had no idea that I am able to support wildlife on the farm through little things like this, that make a big difference.”
Outlook going forward Having followed an integrated approach for a number of years, Kate is aware of the need to continually improve and innovate. Her determination to enhance her farm’s assets, to build partnerships and to use data to drive decisions, together with her forward looking mindset has been evident throughout the project.
KAT E HENDER SON & CO L IN WOODWAR D, G RE AT TEW FAR MS PA RTNERSH IP
About the farm Great Tew Estate in North Oxfordshire consists of 900ha of arable land for crop production and 300ha let out for grazing, in addition to about 175ha of woodland, parkland and game crops. The business also includes a shooting enterprise, and a commercial quarry as well as grain handling and processing facilities as well as a high-tech laboratory providing full grain analysis services. The farm is LEAF Marque certified and the principles of IFM underpin the entire business. Great Tew has recently worked with LEAF Education, Quorn Foods and Nutritank on an industryfirst, on-farm initiative - ‘Sustainable Healthcare for Our Students’. Designed to educate and engage medical students about sustainability, food production, farming, health and nutrition, through virtual and on-farm workshops.
NAME: Kate Henderson & Colin Woodward ENTERPRISE TYPE: Arable cereals, grassland,
LEAF Marque certified
PROPERTY SIZE: 1400 ha LOCATION: Great Tew Estate, Oxfordshire, UK ANNUAL RAINFALL: 659.7mm SOIL: free-draining slightly acid but base-rich soils, limerich loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage, slowly permeable seasonally wet slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soils
Delving deeper into carbon “We and the owner of the Estate have been
Being a large operation, there were both
keen on investigating carbon emissions from
large gains in sequestration and large sources
the farm for a few years and recognise all
of emissions in Great Tew’s carbon reports.
the opportunities it presents at the moment,
Woodland provided high amounts of carbon
both environmentally and economically. We
sequestration, whereas fertilisers came out
have used a farm carbon calculator for two
as the main source of CO2 emissions. One
years before the project and realised we really
surprising highlight was the minimal impact
needed to reduce our footprint, but not a great
of plant protection products on emissions,
deal of action followed. On top of this, we are
contributing to just 0.4% of emissions.
moving away from our expiring environmental
Interestingly, this was not as low in other
schemes and entering new ones. With both
carbon calculators. For Kate and Colin,
these considerations, and with the new schemes
reducing fertiliser usage, whilst maintaining
getting closer and closer, we were really keen
the business commercially, was a priority going
to be involved in this project and work more on
forward so soil management needed to be the
carbon alongside others in the industry.”
Regenerative approach an in-depth look The drive for Great Tew now is to embrace and incorporate more regenerative practices within their overall IFM system to avoid synthetic fertilisers, whilst building up soil nutrients through organic methods. When Kate and Colin met Charlie Curtis, several ideas and techniques were discussed around soil testing and health assessments, cover crop species for specific benefits, and organic amendments. The importance of taking ownership and creating year-on-year targets to reduce emissions figures was highlighted. This will involve learning along the way, reaching a point where Kate and Colin are asking if PPPs or synthetic fertilisers are needed, rather than when to use them.
“It was incredibly useful speaking to Charlie. Our conversations were long and in-depth, with all the right areas covered, particularly for our arable enterprises, all along the right lines we want to go down. It is both exciting and daunting at the same time learning and bringing in these changes, but nonetheless feels like the right time to do so. We have a mixture of soil types, with heavy clay, sandy loam and limestone brash, which makes our work a bit harder in terms of compaction and more extensive movement to break up the soils. Yet, with these new ideas and practices in our toolbox, we are confident and excited about what is to come, including the environmental benefits.” Informed decisions based on monitoring will generate a greater understanding of their soils and help assess the feasibility of taking their integrated farming approaches to the next level. Taking incremental small steps at the outset builds further confidence in how to use soils for healthy, sustainable crop production, enabling continuous improvement in the long run - in this case, in reducing the use of nitrogen fertilisers.
Outlook going forward Looking further ahead, a range of different soil, nutrient and crop testing techniques will be used across Great Tew’s operations. Ongoing assessment and monitoring will help guide strategies to new, nature-based practices. This will involve revising crop rotation plans, creating a more diverse and resilient rotation including both crop and cover crop species. LEAF Education is delighted to have worked previously with Great Tew Farms Partnerships on educational outreach projects and hopes to continue to work with the farm to engage and educate local communities in the future.
MAR K CO U L M AN , H ALL FA RM
About the farm
Mark is embarking on a transition from
Mark Coulman is the third generation of his family
conventional farming into a more nature-
to farm at Hall Farm, Eastoft, North Lincolnshire.
based system, seeking to find and
As a mixed farm, Mark manages a 2000 pig unit
develop effective and integrated methods
under a ‘Bed & Breakfast’ system and runs an
to reduce his carbon footprint and
arable operation growing wheat, potatoes, and
strengthen the farm’s resilience. His focus
field peas, some of which are under contract
is on reducing use of inorganic inputs
farming agreements. He is also the National
through more integrated use of compost,
Chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA).
vermiculture and pig manure.
NAME: Mark Coulman ENTERPRISE TYPE: Arable cereals, potatoes, peas, & pigs PROPERTY SIZE: 235 ha LOCATION: Eastoft, North Lincolnshire, UK ANNUAL RAINFALL: 574.75mm SOIL: Loamy & clayey floodplain soils with naturally high groundwater, loamy & clayey soils of coastal flats with naturally high groundwater
“The driver for me coming into the project was three-fold. Firstly, on a simple level, as a business we have kept a watching interest in the environment and climate change. We have tried to do the right things and introduced a solar panel system, we use biomass boilers, we have electric vehicles, and we use pig manure on our arable soils. Secondly, the commercial driver. We are losing BPS in the next 5 years or so. That has been on the cards for a while, and now the push is down the environmental route. With ELMs approaching, the likely reward will be for more nature-based farming, so we wanted to investigate this more. The third driver is my children. We have five children in their twenties and it is important to leave something for them.” 27
Investigating carbon “I had been meaning to do a farm carbon footprint for a while and this project brought that for me. It has been very interesting, if a little disappointing. I think it is important to be able to measure something before trying to manage it, so starting off with figuring out where we are is positive.” With solar panels, electric vehicles and biomass boilers, Mark’s expectations for his carbon footprinting were positive. This positivity still remains; however, the results showed much higher emissions than initially thought, with N2O from inorganic N fertilisers coming out as the major source of CO2 at Hall Farm. With carbon becoming increasingly significant in farming as an income opportunity, the carbon footprinting within this project was very attractive to Mark – yet, he believes that many of his peers are a long way from this at the moment:
“We are constantly hearing across the industry and getting excited about the prospect of being able to sell carbon from farming. There is a minefield when you dig into this. What this exercise made me realise is that the development of how this is going to happen, and work, is a very long way away, and we as a farm are too. For us, this is largely influenced by fertiliser and fuel use in our arable operation, and feed and transport in our pig enterprise.” “What made it interesting doing this with a group was that everyone approached carbon footprinting with a different viewpoint. This highlighted that if we are going to show we are Net Zero and potentially sell carbon credits, there needs to be a standardisation in how we measure. We also need to bring in the whole supply chain into this. We could easily get rid of a lot of our emissions in our B&B pig system, with the pigs not belonging to us, someone else bringing the feed in and transporting. This is not achieving anything that could improve the environment and mitigate climate change, just passing the responsibility of emissions on to someone else.” Despite the mechanisms and measuring of carbon payments still being unclear, Mark has progressed his carbon footprinting by creating several different scenarios. He has modelled different outcomes according to crops, tillage rates and reduced inorganic N fertiliser usage, comparing each and assessing the status quo.
An open mind to innovation Mark welcomed advice from regenerative agriculture consultant, Charlie Curtis with an open mind, discussing methods to reduce his use of artificial N fertilisers, using cover crops and the reasoning behind their selection. Mark put this advice straight into action, sowing his first cover crop of mustard before direct drilling winter wheat in autumn 2021. He has also been using a direct drill, minimising soil disturbance, so reducing the release of N2O and loss of soil organic matter.
“It was very interesting to look at those figures and to see how the changes in our farming system will affect them. We had our first cover crops in the ground last year in time for our 2022 crops, with a very low disturbance subsoiler being used for the first time too. It was exciting to have a myriad of drills coming to plant our wheat. We’ve got our baseline for 2020/21 financial year. We can now look ahead and see what our 2021/22 financial year looks like as well. We will look at the cost-effectiveness and how that impacts emissions. We have almost certainly used a bit less fertiliser. Another great aspect of the project was that we had access to an expert in the field – Charlie Curtis. She advised us how to use our manure more effectively, how to use the right cover crops, and how all this really evolves over the next few years. Agrecalc has given us an instrument to know if we are making an impact.” There has been a noticeable change in how Mark perceives his soils throughout this project and going forward he has decided to take more integrated, nature-based steps in the running of his arable operation.
JOH N N Y WA K E & RO SIE DAVI E S , COU RTEE NHA LL
About the farm Courteenhall Farms is the 700ha farming enterprise at Courteenhall Estates, Northamptonshire. The business is currently comprised of combinable crops (wheat, spring barley, OSR and field beans) and leguminous crops. Managing Partner, Johnny Wake, is committed to sustainability and nature-based farming, working with, and protecting the farm’s natural landscape. This is reflected in Courteenhall’s farming practices, including minimum/zero tillage, use of organic fertilisers, no standard insecticide use and cover crops across the arable operations on their heavy clay soils. As an ex-doctor working in agriculture, and husband to a practicing doctor, Johnny is particularly eager to build a bridge between farming, health, and education. Courteenhall hosts and sponsors a local educational outreach programme called TRUST that supports struggling children and their families in primary schools across Northamptonshire. Courteenhall also hosts visits from the Country Trust, the Royal Forestry Society’s Teaching Trees programme, and, of course, LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday, as well as hosting and sponsoring the local branch of Home-Start.
NAME: Johnny Wake &
Rosie Davies ENTERPRISE TYPE: Arable cereals, legumes, poultry, renewables, regenerative PROPERTY SIZE: 700 ha LOCATION: Courteenhall Estates, Northamptonshire, UK ANNUAL RAINFALL: 638.6mm SOIL:
Freely draining lime-rich loamy soils, lime-rich loamy and Hanslope series clay soils with impeded drainage, slowly permeable, seasonally wet slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soils
“It is a real pleasure to help generate a positive impact on the life chances
of local children and families from
“We have been committed to working with the
Northamptonshire. Those of us who
nature around us for some time now, ultimately
live and work at Courteenhall want
looking to increase biodiversity at the same time
to share what we have here and help
as drawing in carbon from the atmosphere. This
the public connect with the working
has involved several methods and practices, like
working towards zero-tillage in our arable system,
Rosie Davis, Assistant Agent for
cover cropping, planting wildlife corridors, and tree
Aspen Rural Consultancy working at
and hedge planting. For us, being in this project has
Courteenhall Estate, has been very
brought in added layers to our goals, after looking
much involved throughout and made
into quantifying carbon emissions through using the
substantial contributions to the project.
carbon calculator, and meeting with an advisor.” 31
Like many others in the project, measuring carbon emissions was an important aspect of the project for Courteenhall, who were interested in learning more about their carbon footprint and how they can reduce it as much as possible. Results showed a relatively good whole farm output of total emissions. However, the calculator showed areas in which the farm could improve in terms of emissions, including using homegrown wheat for animal feed rather than buying it in from elsewhere. It was highlighted that it was difficult to include all aspects of the farm in Agrecalc, and therefore difficult to deduce the accuracy, yet Courteenhall have already begun creating additional carbon reports to compare different years and varying scenarios to assess changes in emissions output. Over the next 2 years, we will be planting over 3.5km of new hedges, laying over 10km of existing hedges and planting over 1,500 trees to bring further opportunities to sequester carbon, as well as support wildlife.
Parkland restoration An area of the farm was once parkland, converted into arable production during wartime in an effort to produce more food. Johnny’s plan is to revert this area, designed by the famous landscape architect Humphrey Repton, back to the original historic parkland. When meeting with their adviser, Dr Alastair Leake, Johnny learned
“Legacy runs through farming in a number of ways, from the personal level all the way to the whole industry. Many across the industry, including myself and peers taking part in this project, are thinking about the legacy and land we are going to leave for future generations. It can also be said that the way I am currently farming is because of the legacy my family left. The development of the arable reversion on the Estate is founded on the past, to establish our future – honouring our natural systems and farm in ways that regenerate the land and boost biodiversity, having a positive impact on the British countryside.”
which crops would be best suited
The parkland was originally grazed by cattle. In light of this,
for depleting fertility. The choice
Johnny is reintroducing hardy native breeds back to the
was made in the end to grow
parkland and other grazing areas, including the original
wheat. The farm have used an
population of Traditional Herefords, which were kept and
arable system including cover
shown at Courteenhall for three generations. Johnny has
crops for a number of years, which
described how the cattle will graze over ‘woody pasture’,
Alastair Leake has endorsed.
where they will graze naturally and support the soils,
boosting the biodiversity of flora and fauna still further.
Diversification Having introduced renewable energy technologies to the business, Courteenhall has been able to benefit the environment whilst also making financial savings, by using energy from renewable sources.. Using renewables has made the business a lot more efficient.
“Much like Integrated Farm Management, using both modern technology and traditional methods is one of our key enablers to move forward with our farm and landscape. Our farm is surrounded by wind turbines, which gives an indication of the way things are going at the moment. We’ve installed heat pumps, which has been a huge benefit with the rising costs of the more typical energy sources. We are progressing to further diversify our current system with a new vertical farm on the Estate. This new development is in collaboration with one of the UK’s major hydroponic farming companies, Shockingly Fresh, and will make better use of an area of land that is presently underused.” The new hydroponic development will extend the growing season, bring more employment opportunities into the business and improve both the quantity and quality of produce. Both water and plant protection product use will be reduced. Furthermore, Courteenhall is making informed decisions on water management, installing a new rainwater harvester to harvest run-off from roofs, which can then be recycled and used for the sprayer, cleaning and irrigation.
Further ahead Based on the changes being introduced at Courteenhall now, Johnny expects trees and parkland will be fully established on the farm in the years to come, with a herd of Traditional Herefords producing high-quality, regenerative meat. Johnny has an aspiration to introduce a farm shop to the business in the future, adding further resilience and connections to the wider public. No-till and organic fertilisers will be the mainstay for arable production, where pollinators and wildlife will thrive, and carbon will be stored and recycled in their soils in a sustainable way. Being part of a Cluster Farm, Johnny regularly shares progress and collaborates with peers in creating networks of wildlife corridors between farms, in conjunction with neighbours to support and enhance wildlife and wider landscape on a larger scale.
DAVID M E AN S , F LEE T FARM
About the farm David Means owns and manages Fleet Farm. A LEAF Marque certified business in the Fens of West Norfolk. Situated in the drained marshlands to the south of The Wash, much of his farmland is alluvial silt and loamy clay, reclaimed from the sea. The 153ha business produces potatoes, sugar beet and wheat. He also rents out land to a local farmer to grow onions, in an eight-year rotation. Fleet Farm has been LEAF Marque certified since 2005.
“I have worked in farming for a large part of my life. Now I am owner of my own farm out in the Fens. It is a small business, and I am very much a one-man-band, managing the farm on my own, with seasonal help from local farmers and contractors. This doesn’t mean that I am limited in doing my bit for sustainability and the farming industry. No matter what size or what position you are in, it is always possible to do things better, and therefore I wanted to be a part of this project.” 34
NAME: David Means ENTERPRISE TYPE: Arable cereals, potatoes, sugar beet, onions, LEAF Marque certified PROPERTY SIZE: 160 ha LOCATION: Fleet Farm, West Norfolk, UK ANNUAL RAINFALL: 610.1mm SOIL: Loamy and clayey soils of coastal flats with naturally high groundwater
Progress to date Being LEAF Marque certified, David has been managing his farm using IFM principles, evident from the positive environmental actions he has implemented across the farm. For instance, David has had small wind turbines installed to power parts of his operation, including his own potato store. He is BASIS and FACTS qualified and follows the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) throughout his cropping and crop protection plans. He has successfully kept black grass at bay through consistent inspection and monitoring. Having an 8-year rotation has also enabled David to grow three non-cereal crops, minimising disease pressure on the wheat and reducing the need to use plant protection products. David benefits from an above ground, 10m gallon irrigation reservoir which is fed from a series of shallow boreholes and surplus rainwater harvested from a nearby glasshouse complex. However, the quantity of water available from the boreholes can be limited by the water-table. Working with a neighbouring farmer, David has set up a pipe to join his own reservoir to that of an adjacent farm, so that harvested rainwater can be shared between the two sites.
Carbon calculations Using Agrecalc to establish his baseline, David discovered that fertilisers represent the majority of the total farm emissions. In one way, this did not come as a huge surprise because of the farm size, low energy and fuel needs, as well as renewable sources of energy. Yet, what was interesting for David was the extent of the impact of fertilisers and what this meant for the business and farm operations. This stage in David’s journey helped answer questions that David had been asking for a while.
“Carbon has been on my mind for a long time, and I am continuously questioning how I can reduce this whilst improving my productivity and business. For me, fertiliser came out on top as having the biggest impact, yet how do I maintain P and K demands from my crops without using fertiliser, especially the potatoes? How can I bring in effective and affordable vehicles than run on renewable fuels as opposed to diesel? These are the questions I’d very much like to answer.”
Opening up opportunities Meeting with sustainable farming consultant Andy Guy as part of the project, David and Andy explored various opportunities to further develop more nature-based approaches, particularly around reducing fertiliser use. David has already implemented a number of measures including leaving stubble to overwinter, applying sludge as a soil conditioner and for nutrients before sugar beet. He has also begun to use waste from a nearby paper plant to improve soil organic matter and therefore water and nutrient retention - much needed for his lighter soils.
“Being in the project has opened my eyes to a lot of different ideas about how to go forward and be a more sustainable farmer. At the forefront will always be producing quality food and making profit in a sustainable way, which I know I have been doing for a fair few years now. Being able to listen to peers and people from the wider industry, to ask questions and meet an expert has been invaluable and I know there can always be room to do better once you think about it closely and carefully.” The main target for David now is to find and implement alternative methods to maintain crop nutrient requirements and increase soil organic matter levels in the long run whilst minimising inorganic inputs. Having already completed his carbon report, one more step towards this for David is more regular soil testing. This will measure the progress he makes as time goes on. He has also explored and discussed ideas to bring in new practices, specifically cover crops and changes within his rotation. He may also incorporate legumes, potentially spring beans further along the line, as a break crop and nitrogen fixer.
Wo r k i n g w i t h n a t u r e a n d the community Connecting with other farmers and the wider community is a key element of a more integrated approach to farming. Like most farms across the region, David’s farm is linked with many others, creating a rich network to support wildlife and the unique ecosystem of this fenland region. Having already planted several hedgerows, he has also sown long rows of bird seed mixes to link hedgerows, small areas of woodland and other habitat areas. Bird identification and guidance signs for walkers have also been put up across the adjoining farms to protect wildlife.
MAT THEW MORTON, M&R MORTON LTD
About the farm Matthew Morton, owns and manages M&R Morton Ltd, a LEAF Marque certified business running to 213 ha, growing wheat, barley, peas, linseed, grass for seed and cut flowers. Sitting on chalk soils at the northern edge of the South Downs, east of Winchester, a wide range of crops are grown due to the slightly warmer climate. The cut-flower enterprise was established in a period of diversification. Matthew also cares for a flock of 900 ewes and 240 ewe lambs. As a long-time LEAF member and attendee of early Groundswell, Matthew has been practicing Integrated Farm Management to support the health of his soils, whilst benefitting the environment and his business, for many years.
NAME: Matthew Morton ENTERPRISE TYPE: Arable cereals, seeds, cut flowers, LEAF Marque certified PROPERTY SIZE: 213 ha LOCATION: M&R Morton Ltd, Hampshire, UK ANNUAL RAINFALL: 950mm SOIL: Shallow lime-rich soils over chalk or limestone
Building resilience Matthew has been establishing a more
“I first became interested in very minimum
regenerative system to his business for
tillage and cover cropping around seven years
several years, farming in a way that improves
ago when a friend started doing it, and it just
and maintains soil health, using practices
made sense; to cover the soil in winter, to
that include very low or zero disturbance
grow the crops with no added nutrients over
to soils throughout each season. A diverse
the winter to pick up what was already there.
rotation across the arable enterprise, using
Now, it has evolved from there to utilise cover
cover crops to improve nutrient content
crops, to provide winter food for the sheep
in soils to minimise the need for artificial
flock. Undoubtedly, keeping the soil covered
fertilisers, and integrating sheep that finish
has been a benefit, my water quality is much
on cover crops are some of the steps he has
improved. It is one example of how we as
farmers are good stewards of the countryside.” 39
Looking at emissions From the get-go, Matthew highlighted his ultimate goal of becoming carbon neutral. Using the Farm Carbon Toolkit to assess emissions from his business, the overall outcome from his report was positive, with total emissions being outweighed by sequestration figures, indicating the business is carbon negative.
“The carbon footprinting was a good experience for me after having made steps on this a while ago. I knew that soil had now become much more of a significant factor across these tools and the industry as a whole. I had soil tests done across all my fields back in 2016 and it was interesting to see what impact my farming had on this. To incorporate this into a carbon figure was very helpful and confirmed that I was going in a good direction.” Having done loss-on-ignition soil tests five years prior, Matthew had the same soil tests done in the same fields and aligned the soil test results in conjunction with his carbon footprint report. Results showed that an increase in SOM of 0.5%. This had a huge impact on overall carbon sequestration and contributed significantly to the final carbon negative figure. Whilst very positive, Matthew is sitting tight on the results and for the moment, thinking about how to further improve all sources of emissions across the farm. Using soil testing in conjunction with an emissions calculator was positively received by all farmers in the group and reiterates the importance of regular soil testing.
Advice to advance The areas that Matthew and his advisor, Charlie Curtis, explored focused on his progress and achievements. Different sources of nitrogen application on crops and sustainable soil management were discussed, including homemade and bought-in organic composts.
“Having the day with Charlie not only helped me as the farmer that I already am, but also the farmer that I want to be further ahead. Having shared some experiences and hearing her ups and down, her strategies to improve and dynamic ways of measuring was really useful. It reminded me to always look at things with an open mind, recognise that there can be doubts but to try new things, speak with others and share ideas.” Whilst already having a relatively diverse crop rotation and using cover crops, Matthew is always keen to try out new and different types of crops, whether for a specific function or for multifunctional purposes. When speaking with Charlie Curtis, she shared which species of cover crops, why they were selected and what they delivered on farm.
Where next? “Although I feel that I have come a long way and improved, the journey for us to develop more nature-based solutions to climate change on our farm is only really just beginning. Everything that we do and want to do is with that in mind, whether it be capturing carbon, building soil organic matter, using less fossil-fuel derived fertiliser and fewer pesticides. We are embarking on a third agricultural revolution, and I remain keen and positive about engaging with this and being involved with LEAF.” 41
DAVI D R OS E & JA MES T HOMP S ON , HOPE FARM
About the farm David Rose is a third-generation arable-mixed farmer, farming at Home Farm, Nottinghamshire, a 182 ha business growing cereal crops and running a flock of 200 sheep, 30 of which are pedigree Shropshire’s and five Longhorn cattle. He is also the founder of Farmeco, a cooperative social enterprise formed with three other local arable farmers, collectively farming over 1200 hectares. Home Farm has an education hub based around an Ecocentre, with a café, gym and ‘Men in Sheds’ mental health initiative and has hosted LEAF Open Farm Sunday for many years. David is also a trustee of Nuffield Farming Scholarships, a demonstration farmer for The Woodland Trust and sits on the SAI Global UK Impartiality Board. James Thompson, an employee of Home Farm, was very much involved in the project throughout, whilst completing a postgraduate degree in environmental sciences.
NAME: David Rose & James Thompson ENTERPRISE TYPE: Arable cereals, beef, fruit, agroforestry PROPERTY SIZE: 183 ha LOCATION: Home Farm, Nottinghamshire, UK ANNUAL RAINFALL: 709.04mm SOIL: Slightly acid loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage
Early adopter David was an early adopter of using minimal/zero till techniques and has also introduced agroforestry into his farming system, namely ‘silvoarable’; a system in which alleyways of trees are integrated into arable cropping systems. Trees are now key to David’s farming system, planted every 24 metres of arable crop, with three metres of grasses and wildflowers, followed by a row of fruit (apple) and nut (walnut and sweet chestnut) trees.
“In the past, my mindset was all ‘feed the plant, not the soil’. This has really changed over the last eight months, going from soil health and its relationship with production to knowing what’s in your soils and its biology. I find that this way, you can address multiple areas in one; understanding our soils will ultimately lead to improving our entire farm. Working in the project has only reinforced this mindset, allowing me to connect many aspects of the farm with our carbon emissions. Sequestration through soil health, reducing inputs, utilising low-productive land, finding our marginal gains (e.g. driving, lights etc) can all be related to emissions in one way or another. It’s about setting an example with the tools and land that you have.” Silvoarable systems can not only create wildlife corridors and habitats, they also improve the recycling of soil nutrients and overall soil health and crop quality, without decreasing yields. On top of that, carbon is sequestered.
Rooted in the community Home Farm is immersed in community schemes that benefit local people, connecting them with nature and how it links to food production. The Ecocentre is a valuable and thriving community facility offering a range of educational outreach activities including volunteer tree planting days, Forest School and educational visits. The farm also hosts agroforestry research projects, including an edible woodland pilot project supported by The Woodland Trust, involving over 5,500 trees.
“I am a farmer who farms with trees and the community. When I began integrating trees into my system, I was encouraged by my own ambition to leave some of the land to a community-led farming scheme. This quickly broadened in practice, with many local volunteers coming on-farm to plant trees. Now the farm has grown in its communityfocus. I like working with people and we have a successful community Ecocentre with a number of people working on the farm. We run a wide range of workshops from livestock management to woodland creation and tree identification. Wellbeing and health are not just important for your animals, trees and crops, it is important for yourself and others. Community takes ownership in my farming system.” 44
Investigating soil Both chemical and physical soil testing has been carried out for a number of years across the farm. Testing for soil biology had never been done before, hence David’s motivation to give this a try, learn more and create a holistic interpretation of his soils. A service provided by Fera Science Ltd, led by Guy Thallon, provides testing for free-living nematodes in agricultural soils using novel technologies. Infamously seen as a pest for crops, many species of free-living nematodes are actually beneficial, and part of healthy, natural soil ecosystems. Nematodes can play a significant role in nutrient cycling by releasing nitrogen after feeding on bacteria or fungi. In general, a biodiverse population of nematodes indicates good soil biological health. Once tested, samples were analysed and results presented in an online tool that visualises the test results. Soils at Home Farm were showing signs of nematode populations becoming more diverse and metabolically active, indicating the soil benefits delivered by David’s integrated farming system.
Outlook going forward “The advice I’d give to anyone thinking of developing an agroforestry plan, is speak to people who have done it before and learn from their experiences. Details and clarity are important for trees – it’s not as simple as just planting them anywhere. Rotation is important like in any other farming management system, as is financial sustainability. Management of environmental areas needs the same mindset and perspective as managing cropped areas – this will make your land and business work economically. I am glad to say that we are now at a stage where we are creating a new hazel and willow agroforest, around two acres. We are also exploring possibilities in the biomass market and for the fruit we are produce from our well-established, fruit agroforest.” David has many plans for Home Farm going forward, focusing on enhancing ecosystem productivity. Amongst them are converting an acre of pasture into a wetland to provide a highquality, clean water source and wildlife habitat and creating earwig homes to attract beneficial insects to help control aphids in the apple trees - an excellent example of integrated pest management in action.
PAU L K E L LY & PET E R WILDER SPI N, PA RK FA R M
About the farm Paul Kelly, Dairy Manager, and Peter Wilderspin, Rural Surveyor, manage Park Farm, owned by Cambridge University since 1948. Created as a site of teaching within the University Department of Veterinary Medicine whilst also operating as a commercial farming enterprise, it remains a meeting point of innovation, research and application. The farm has a dairy unit of 230 milking cows, producing 2 million litres of milk per year, through a robotic milking system with housing all year. As well as raising replacement heifers, the farm has a flock of 250 North Country Mule sheep. Land surrounding Park Farm is managed in-hand to produce forage for livestock, and 265ha is farmed for arable enterprises under a contract farming agreement. The farm encompasses a significant Site of Specific Scientific Interest, an historically important area of Capability Brown designed parkland, and almost 90ha of woodland.
NAME: Paul Kelly & Peter Wilderspin ENTERPRISE TYPE: Arable cereals, dairy, sheep, forage, grassland, renewable energy PROPERTY SIZE: 692 ha LOCATION: Madingley, Cambridgeshire, UK ANNUAL RAINFALL: 568.13mm SOIL: Lime-rich loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage
The low hanging fruit In spring 2020, Cambridge University Farm
“We have identified the ‘low-hanging fruit’
adopted a 3-year implementation plan to move
across Park Farm and have done our best
towards meeting science-based targets for
to try and pick these, ultimately creating
carbon reduction. Paul and Peter have driven
a better and more sustainable business
sustainability in terms of reducing carbon
and farm to manage. In some cases,
emissions where possible and balancing
these have been small things that can
efficiencies across the farm. New technologies
make a big difference, such as improving
and more integrated practices have helped
the ventilation in our livestock sheds,
address issues which they identify as the ‘low-
when and where seed mixes are sown,
hanging fruit’ to increase the efficiency of the
and the wildlife and where it resides
farm business. These include solar panel systems
across our site. In other cases, more
on their roofs, new LED lighting systems, and a
significant things have been brought in
slurry fed anaerobic digester.
for improvement.” 47
A more recent development has been the installation of an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant. The use of waste processing AD plants on farms is a climate positive, circular system making the most out of waste from agricultural production, with potential to enhance economic sustainability. On Park Farm, biomethane gas produced from the AD plant is used to generate electricity for the livestock enterprises, and digestate is used to fertilise crops. Energy produced from the plant is monitored to assess efficiencies and cost savings.
Bringing carbon into the picture Having made good progress with improving efficiencies across the business, Paul and Peter were keen to reduce carbon emissions. After completing Agrecalc, they identified three major elements that comprise 75% of their total emissions: methane from the dairy, purchased feed for livestock and synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. Throughout the process of completing their data entry, Paul and Peter remained engaged, approaching the exercise as a useful and important start to addressing GHG emissions. Whilst they felt the tool was comprehensive and straightforward to use overall, they observed that some aspects of their farm and landscape were not being taken into account, for example, emissions saved from feeding the AD plant with manures, and the large areas of permanent grassland, which may have a significant carbon sink potential.
Solutions from nature Park Farm is unique in that it holds great historical significance to Cambridge University, the village of Madingley, and the adult education centre, Madingley Hall. Many areas across the site are of importance to wildlife, including several key species. A large area of parkland where livestock graze has protected status. The site has gone through
many changes during different phases of
Looking ahead, Paul and Peter are looking
management, with landscape and nature
to use existing resources to build on what
conservation now being at the forefront whilst
they have achieved so far. Building soil
maintaining productivity in a sustainable
organic matter, making best use of organic
manner. Along with the University’s ecology
manures and trying cover crops are areas
groups and local organisations including
of focus. Having input from sustainable
Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust and regional
farming consultant, Andy Guy as part of
FWAG (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group),
the project, an array of recommendations
Paul and Peter embrace their role in driving
have given an extra push to increasing the
efficiency and environmental sustainability
There are several old ponds across the site which are now being managed with a focus
of the business, underpinned by more integrated framework.
on restoration and protection, with the hope of attracting great crested newts and other amphibian life. Some of these ponds are located on the edge of arable crop fields, so buffer strips will be planted to protect them from any direct movement of nutrient laden soil, and to provide habitats for wildlife. Furthermore, an area of scrub has been selected as a conservation site targeting turtle doves, with new specialised seed mixes planted around the area.
About LEAF: Established in 1991, Linking Environment And Farming (LEAF) is a leading global organisation developing and promoting more climate positive, resilient and nature-based farming and food systems. LEAF works with farmers, food industry stakeholders, academics, retailers, and consumers to deliver productivity and prosperity among farmers, enrich the environment and engage society. Our vision is a global farming and food system that delivers Climate Positive action, builds resilience and supports the health, diversity and enrichment of our food, farms, the environment and society. Our mission is to inspire and enable more circular approaches to farming and food systems through integrated, regenerative and vibrant nature-based solutions, that deliver productivity and prosperity among farmers, enriches the environment and positively engages young people and wider society. www.leaf.eco
About Integrated Farm Management Underpinning LEAF’s approach to delivering more sustainable farming is Integrated Farm Management (IFM). IFM is a site-specific, wholefarm business approach that uses the best of modern technology and traditional methods. Attention to detail is key; appropriate and efficient use of inputs, smarter approaches to business planning and the adoption of innovations and new technologies, all contribute to increasing productivity whilst protecting valuable natural resources. www.leaf.eco/farming/integrated-farm-management
About LEAF Marque LEAF Marque is a global environmental assurance system recognising more sustainably farmed products. It is based on the sustainable farming principles of Integrated Farm Management (IFM), which covers areas such as soil and water management, pollution control, crop health, animal welfare, community engagement, energy efficiency and landscape and nature conservation. LEAF Marque businesses are independently assessed and certified against the principles of IFM. www.leafmarque.com
About LEAF Education LEAF Education works to engage, inspire and motivate young people through experiential learning, to equip future generations with balanced and informed insight into food production, farming and the environment. LEAF Education manages a number of industry and educational initiatives, including Farmer Time, Access to Farms, CEVAS (Countryside Educational Visits Accreditation Scheme), Countryside Classroom and Chef on the Farm. www.leaf.eco/education
Acknowledgements We would like to record our acknowledgements and thanks to all the farmers who have contributed their time and expertise to this project. Our thanks also to the farm advisors for sharing their knowledge and experience. Finally, we would like to express our grateful thanks to The Linder Foundation for their support. 51
Find out more at www.leaf.eco /LinkingEnvironmentAndFarming @leaf_farming LEAF
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