In the next half century, the UK farms operate is going to change drastically. In 2010 soil degradation alone cost farms over £1.2 billion in expenses. Soil is also a phenomenal source of carbon capture - but over intensive agriculture has meant that somewhere between 40 and 60% of this has been already released, worsening climate change. Controlling 70% of the UK's area, farmers have the capacity for unrivalled impact on the state of the countryside.
Arable farming is not the only use for our crops however. Thousands of species of insect, bird, mammal and plant depend on a healthy farm system to survive. Once again, intensification over the past 50 years has had a heavy toll on the variety of life that lives in and around our farms.
But improving diversity is costly, and reduces productivity, right?
The short answer is it can be if done to the extreme, but there are ways of getting nature and soil to work for you, without affecting productivity - and even making you money!
So how does it work? Well, every piece of land is different, but as a general rule, returning to more traditional rotation based systems, and gently lowering intensity can have a big impact. Converting existing low productivity land can be a great way to block soil runoff into waterways whilst giving precious space for nature. The specifics do very much depend on your property, and the system you currently have as to what will work for you - which is where we come in. For the foreseeable future farming is going to change to support not just crop production but supporting everything from the national skylark population to carbon sequestration from subsidised woodlands all the way to managed grasslands and orchards for rare butterflies. We aim to help you get ahead of the curve on targeting areas such as the above so that when the funding shifts even further in favour of that kind of land management, you're ready from stage one to apply and take advantage of new schemes put in place.
Using our experience with farming and conservation biology, we work with you to create a landscape on your farm that still functions profitably, but with more long term sustainable land use and biodiversity built in. We can write up applications for agri-forestry grants and (when it returns) the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) to help bring in extra income to gain profit from providing a better habitat than what would have been left as low quality arable land. We can advise on where will be best to plant your hedgerows to attract new species whilst keeping your productive land, on attracting pest - lowering species like barn owls (which lower rodent numbers, and make them less bold at entering the field) and parasitic wasps (which prey and breed on arable pests, lowering your pesticide requirements).
And why not plant fruit trees in your hedgerows? Just because these features are providing for wildlife doesn't mean you can't get a crop out of the feature. If you hadn't considered this as a viable option - this is the type of thinking we can bring to diversifying your land.
Initial consultations on what we can offer you and where you can consider changing your land have no charge, so why not drop us a line today to see where we can help you give your land a more sustainable, long term future?