This field lab has formed through Precision Grazing’s Beef and Sheep Discussion Groups, who are partnering with FWAG SW to run four trials in the south west of England. The farmers are dissatisfied with the current system of monoculture winter brassicas used for grazing outwintering livestock, which damages soil health, water and the wider environment despite the low cost and reliability of the system.
In absence of an “off the shelf” diverse forage mix, they worked with Precision Grazing and a seed company to select a mixture of 16 varieties for comparison with “normal” monoculture forage brassica/forage beets. They will introduce livestock and assess whether the diverse mix can achieve desired outcomes such as improved soil health and biodiversity (worms, birds, insects), year-round ground cover and suitable nutrition, with the capacity to reduce artificial nitrogen inputs.
The field lab is important to the industry, to meet ambitions around Carbon Net Zero targets and to meet the requirement of “no more than 5% bare ground over winter” under the ELMs improved grassland soils standard. Around 30 farmers have inputted into the field lab design. Soil researchers and ecologists at FWAGSW will undertake the research elements and overall project management/coordination of the field lab.
For more information see the field lab page of the Innovative Farmers website: