Cows eating the diverse fodder crop

Farmers in south west Engalnd are trialling a diverse (16 variety) mix against their current systems of monoculture winter brassicas used for grazing outwintering livestock. Supported by FWAG, they will measure changes in soil health, biodiversity and monitor forage quality and yield

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:

Field Lab (innovativefarmers.org)

 

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Innovative Farmers was established in 2012 by the Soil Association with the aim of bringing scientific rigour to on-farm trials co-designed by farmers and researchers. With a focus on sustainability and resilience, groups come together on discrete topics and on-farm trials addressing the topics that matter to them.