Diverse crop rotations are key to a successful agroecological and regenerative food system. Innovative farmers and growers across the globe are using a range of strategies and crop mixtures to build soil health, reduce pests and weed burdens, and enhance natural capital. In this session, curated by the FarmED team, you will be introduced to the key principles of rotation and hear about the diverse cropping systems at the Rodale Institute (Pennsylvania, USA) and FarmED (Oxfordshire, UK). An open discussion and Q&A will follow.
ADVANCE REGISTRATION REQUIRED. LIMITED SPACES: 500
No-till arable farming has revolutionised the arable farming mindset and is of interest to organic farmers because of its potential to reduce cultivations whilst providing weed control, fertility and soil health. But is it possible?
Cover crops or green manures have always been part of organic arable systems but are now commonly used conventionally as part of regenerative farming systems.. The 4 pillars of regenerative farming are no-till, continuous ground cover, crop diversity and livestock integration.
In organic systems, cover crops have generally been ploughed in to provide fertility for the rotation but adopting organic no-till will require termination of the cover crop and this is difficult for organic farmers who cannot use chemicals.
One solution? A non-aggressive, low growing permanent cover crop such as small white clover, which shades out weeds and provides fertility.
In this session, we talk to two farmer-participants from our Innovative Farmer programme. They have been looking at the potential of no-till with living mulches with a group of organic and conventional farmers running on-farm trials, plus a European organic farmer who carries it out already.
Including trees in farm management offers opportunities to future-proof our farms against the effects of global climate change. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent throughout the world. 60% of UK farm businesses have been affected by severe weather over the last 10 years. Soil degradation and loss are evident as wet winters carry our topsoil onto roads. Annually, flood damage costs the farming sector £1.9 billion, with a rise to £2.4 billion expected by 2050. We hear how growing trees can improve the profitability of your farm by helping to protect your soils during wet and dry weather.
ADVANCE REGISTRATION REQUIRED. LIMITED SPACES: 500
Hear from three farmers who have adapted and innovated to ensure their livestock enterprises survive beyond subsidy by getting to grips with their financial management, optimising forage utilisation and responding to market demand.
Many livestock enterprises in the UK have been reliant on income from the Basic Payment System under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) to improve their farm business turnover. This session considers novel ways for livestock to support a farm business’ provision of public goods and explore ways to enhance productivity and improve viability.
Collaboration is key to future farming success and our panel of farmers will share what they have done to adapt and model their businesses in order to be flexible and take advantage of opportunities such as flying flock grazing. Also how they have embraced technology and the value of data in decision making.
In particular, this workshop is based around the experience of one farmer who went through a thorough review of performance, informed and underpinned by their participation in The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme. We also draw on the knowledge gained by the Soil Association’s involvement in the Defra-funded Future Farming Resilience pilots.
Biodiversity is critical to sustainable farming. Evidence from long-term field experiments (50 – 170 years) suggest that the central relationship between microbes, organic carbon and soil structure determines soil system performance. Detailed work at Rothamsted led by Prof. Andrew Neal is demonstrating the strong relationship between organic carbon, structure and the hydrodynamic behaviour of soil. Among other sources, farmyard manure plays an important role in managing soil systems. The experiments also demonstrate significantly higher levels of organic matter/carbon under grass – with the associated benefits of increased soil porosity and hydraulic conductivity.
Dr Felicity Crotty is researching the implications of land use on the soil food web for its biodiversity and its relationship to soil health in both arable and livestock systems. Her current research involves the monitoring of earthworms as the emblem of soil health and seeking to identify linkages between healthy soil and healthy food.
Since time immemorial, farmers have recognised the vital role that grazed pasture plays in rebuilding the health and fertility of the soil following the disruption caused by cultivation. As researchers continue to understand and explain why, Prof Neal and Dr Crotty will share their recent findings.
Staggeringly, “humanity has wiped out 68% of global wildlife since 1970”, according to the WWF (2020). If that stat wasn’t terrifying enough, it's also been concluded that the annual rate of destruction is increasing. In other words, the eradication of the remaining 32% of global wildlife is speeding up! And the biggest cause cited is agriculture.
Urgent action is needed, and a growing number of voices in international conservation are demanding that humanity should retreat back, returning land to nature to create more wilderness. Today the most common narrative in western conservation is that ‘humanity is systematically destructive, so we need to protect areas from our harm.’
However, regenerative farmer Rebecca Hosking believes this separation argument is too simplistic. Rebecca is keen to show that humans can be a force for good, if only we remember how. As she says, “we can see the rest of life as something to control, or see it as something to protect. In both cases, humans are placed separate from all other species, and therein lies the inherent problem.”
Working towards Net Zero to reduce global warming has well and truly arrived for us all and is even more important now as we strive to reach Government targets and look to the possible new requirements and structures of future farming payment schemes. Farmers are key and incredibly well placed to help deliver this globally through a range of changes and options for their farming practices.
This session on reaching Net Zero or even Sub-Zero by using nature friendly solutions brings you practical ways to help achieve this on your farm. A panel of farmers from across the UK will share their work and experiences in the delivery of achievable Net Zero practices and will highlight the most recent thinking work on this. As well as presentations, you will have an opportunity to put questions to the panel.
This session will explore the many facets of hedgerows, from wildlife habitat to cultural history, from ecosystem services to ecological resilience.
Nigel Adams and Dr Jo Staley from the UK introduce the importance of hedgerows, their roles in agricultural landscapes and current policy relevance. They will outline the contribution that hedgerows can make to nature conservation along with the many ecosystem services that they provide, and the importance of sensitive management to guarantee their survival into the future.
Colleagues in Canada and The Netherlands will present their own very different hedgerow stories: from a country that has never had hedges to one that almost completely lost them.
Join the recently-formed Global Grassfed Alliance to hear about a growing international movement of people and organisations championing the production of grass-fed meat and milk from regenerative farming systems. The session will be a dialogue between members of the alliance working with different geographic constraints and increasing public interest the world over.
The Global Grassfed Alliance (of which the UK’s Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, host of this session, is a member) is in the early stages of development but already common ground is emerging between countries and organisations, and a strong need to establish an international understanding of what “grass-fed” means. Done right, grass-fed production can deliver so many benefits for society, improving animal, human and planetary health, but, unless protected, it could become “grasswash”.
Who are the organisations and people working to champion this work and what can be done to encourage greater international collaboration between them? This session will bring together some of the best examples from around the world, from well-established organisations to those just starting out.