Strengthen sustainability at Cereals

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There are many factors involved in sustainable agriculture and a special selection of seminars at the Cereals Event will explore how farmers can strengthen all the different pillars of sustainability. 

From financial and mental strength to healthy soils and environment, running a sustainable farm business draws together many different elements, all of which will be discussed in the Sustainable Solutions seminars, in association with the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs. “We have some of the top researchers, scientists and farmers coming together to discuss hot topics like regenerative farming, climate change and business resilience,” says Alli McEntyre, event director.

Collaborative farming could be one answer, with a session on 30 June bringing together three businesses who are working in different ways to combine their strengths. “Collaborative farming brings many benefits to farming businesses; we all know the saying that two minds are better than one,” says Holly Beckett at Focussed Farmers, who is chairing the session.

“Collaborative farming can come in many forms and it’s important that all parties are singing from the same hymn sheet and are clear about the aims, objectives and overall vision of what they are trying to achieve together.

“When that is clear, people coming together to achieve their goals increases ideas, motivation, productivity and resources and at a minimum, doubles the driving force required to achieve more than one can alone.”

Climate change is an increasing challenge for arable producers, with extreme weather resulting in either too much or too little water, and one seminar on 1 July will examine how best to manage this. Nuffield scholar Rob Burtonshaw will explain the productivity and environmental benefits of investing in drainage, helping to reduce run off and increase soil resilience. This not only leads to greater crop productivity, it mitigates risks of soils and pesticides entering watercourses. “Drainage is a long term investment, I would expect a scheme to still be performing at least 20 years after installation, and on the right soil a great deal longer than that,” says Mr Burtonshaw.

It also can bring benefits to the bottom line. “Income is improved by increased yield and quality; there is also better crop uptake of soil mineral nitrogen which reduces inputs.” But maintaining drainage is important. “Cleaning ditches and clearing outfalls is a simple and cheap way of improving the efficiency of the drainage system.”

Working towards net zero is undoubtably a pillar of sustainability and something which young farmers have embraced – hear from those making a difference in the climate change challenge session at 4pm on 1 July.

In 2020 the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, NFU and Championing the Farmed Environment (CFE) – supported by Defra – launched a competition for young farmers to record a short video sharing their ideas and actions for achieving net zero by 2040.

Winner of the over 18s category was Elliot Cole, a mixed farmer from Devon. He uses litter from his 120,000 chickens in the farm’s biogas plant to generate electricity and woodchip from sustainable local forests to heat the sheds.

“In return we get natural fertiliser to grow the barley we feed the bulls; this has cut our artificial fertiliser use by 99% which has shown many benefits for soil health, as more carbon can be kept in the soil and less nitrous oxide released.”

To view the full seminar programme and to book tickets visit YFC members are entitled to tickets at a discount rate – contact the NFYFC for more details.