Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit

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21.05.15 Pioneering techniques for increasing soil fertility event

A one day workshop with Friedrich Wenz

The ideal of any farm is to generate and increase its soil's fertility from within the farm rather than having to bring in inputs from off the farm.  Friedrich has experience of doing this for many years on his stockless arable farm in Germany.  Fridrich has gained his experience all over the world developing minimum tillage, working with green manures and catch crops, mulching and other techniques.

This workshop and a follow up in September, will share these techniques and the theory behind them.  Friedrich gave a short presentation in the UK in 2014 to wide acclaim.  These workshops offer a rare opportunity to explore in depth his cutting edge research and practice into building long term soil fertility.  They will be of interest to farmers, growers and gardeners alike.

Event details:

When: 9th June 2015, 9.00am - 4.00pm followed by tea and discussion

Where: Emerson College, Forest Row, East Sussex, RH18 5JX

Cost: £65 to include lunch and refreshments

How to book and more information - To book contact the Biodynamic Association on 01453 759501, by email or online.

20.05.15 Essentials of Resilience Thinking and Implementation

We're aware that the rate of change in the world around us is speeding up and that a single change usually has multiple and far ranging impacts. We're also becoming even more aware of how vital and urgent wise management of interconnecting systems is on a wider level, as we are regularly reminded about the increasingly critical social as well as environmental impacts of for instance climate disruption, pollution, soil depletion and ecosystem collapse - and varying governance regimes.

So how do we take care of both humanity and the natural world into the future, via a 'systems thinking' approach? In seeking to manage our own lives and our impact on those / that around us we could all benefit from greater insight into how interconnecting systems with which we are interacting function - and this is true if we are addressing farm management or other landscape planning, development, environmental, social or even government policy - as well as day-to-day living.  This workshop introduces us to tools for doing just that.

Increasingly we are also hearing the word Resilience bandied around, but many may wonder what it really means / how it really functions. Resilience Science emerged from the ecological sciences in the 1970s, and a modern definition of resilience (from the book 'Resilience Thinking') is 'the capacity of a system to absorb change while still maintaining it's basic structure on which we rely for support and fulfilment, from social ones such as family / community structure, to farms and factories, to the natural world, to be able to maintain their 'productivity' whilst impacted by change around them -whether that productivity is emotional nourishment, food, shelter, and warmth, or ecosystem services from clean water and biodiversity?

Resilience is what enables systems to continue providing those 'goods and services' regardless of inevitable surprises and resilience thinking informs us so that we can build more resilience into our personal lives and the world around us; it is highly adaptable right up to global treaty level.

Since emerging from ecological science, resilience thinking has evolved considerably, with many researchers developing a framework for that thought, including concepts such as the 'Cycle of Adaptive Change' and 'the Nine Planetary Boundaries). There are specific principles for building resilience in social - ecological systems' and there are now well developed analytical tools and practical strategies for increasing resilience in the wholes we manage.

This workshop will introduce you to the resilience framework, these concepts and more.  Although based in an agro-ecological context, being an introduction, it is relevant for everyone, right up to policy makers at international level, and will act as an invaluable starting block for launching yourself into a resilience thinking approach to your life and work.  If you are managing land - or would like to integrate resilience thinking into your research or teaching this is an excellent place to start.

Instructor Owen Hablutzel has been integrating resilience thinking into farm agro-ecosystem design and regional planning applications since 2007.  While serving as an invited member of the Resilience Task Force of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN - Committee for Ecosystem Management) he continues to weave resilience thinking into a transformative practice and process of 'Dynamic Design' with wide applicability to the contexts of our rapidly changing world in the 21st century.

What makes this workshop special?

The material covered is thoroughly embedded in the global conversation and practice of Resilience Science; it is grounded in the framework and principles developed over the past decades by Resilience Researchers and presents ways to embed that theory in practice.

For more information on this workshop see here.

Regen Ag UK (RAUK) have a number of events coming up for June; for RAUK events in general including these see here.

A more extensive exploration of Resiliencey ('Resilience Landscapes, Resilient Futures) is also planned for later in the year, click here for more details.

For more details about RegenAg UK please see here.

Source: RegenAG UK.


19.5.15 SOS: Save our Soils

This interview was featured in the ACRES magazine in the US and documents an interview between Dr Christine Jones a soil scientist and ACRES.  

To the pressing worldwide challenge of restoring soil carbon and rebuilding topsoil, the Australian soil ecologist Dr. Christine Jones offers an accessible, revolutionary perspective for improving landscape health and farm productivity.  For several decades Jones has helped innovative farmers and ranchers implement regenerative agricultural systems taht provide remarkable benefits for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, water management and productivity.  After a highly respected career in public sector research and extension, in 2001 Jones received a Community Fellowship Award from Land and Water Australia for "mobilizing the community to better manage their land, water and vegetation."

Three years later she launched Amazing Carbon as a means to widely share her visions and inspire change.  Jones has organized and presented workshops, field days, seminars and conferences throughout Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Europe, the United States and Canada. Last year she gave presentations to American organisations and institutions as diverse as Arizona State University, NRCS, Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance, the Massachusetts chapter of Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), San Luis Valley Soil Health Group and the Quivira Coalition.  IN 2015 Jones personal commitment to make the biggest possible impact globally will take her to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Kansas, New Mexico, California, Florida, Costa Rica and South Africa, as well as many regions within Australia, 2,500 miles from her home, to hold the first in a series of Soil Restoration Farming Forums, in which 11 farmers will receive monetary awards for reversing soil deterioration in dryland cropping systems through intercropping with perennial warm season grasses.

To read the full interview please click here.

Source: ACRES magazine, March 2015, Vol 45, No. 3

18.05.15 Some farmer experiences from Scotland

Following on from the blog last week about the fab Farming for a Better Climate project, below there is a bit more information about some of their focus farms that they have worked with for the last few years, and more importantly, the results that these farms have found.

Glenkilrie Farm, Perthshire

Is an upland beef and sheep farm, which houses 140 suckler cows and 1000 ewes which are split into two flocks. David grows some forage rape plus grass which is them ensiled or made into big bales. In addition to the farm business, Glenkilrie is the location of a well-established bed and breakfast business.

Under the five key action areas, David considered a range of measures that fitted in with his farming system. Examples of measures undertaken at Glenkilrie include:

Silage analysis– David knew that the feed quality of his silage was reasonably good, but testing silage quality was needed to accurately put together a ration. The high quality of silage reduced the need for purchased feed, meaning financial savings of around £3,000 and nearly 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) per year.

Reduced age of calving - David identified a small batch of heifers suited to calve at 24 months rather than 36 months. Pleased with the result, David intends to expand this across the majority of the herd. From the initial batch calved at 24 months, it is estimated that David has saved £7,000 and 19.9 tonnes of CO2e.

Reduced use of straw - Bedding cattle on straw is expensive; due to the geography of the farm, straw was purchased anywhere from 15 to 25 miles away from the main steading. David has trialled bedding a group of cattle on recycled wood fines, reducing straw use. The livestock have taken to it and it has proved to be more cost effective than straw. This measure has already saved David nearly £700 and 2.74 tonnes of CO2e.

Find out more about what has been happening at Glenkilrie here.

Upper Nisbet Farm

The farm has an award winning beef enterprise and grow 242ha of winter wheat, winter barley, spring barley and beans, 202 ha under grass and rent an additional 80 gha of grass on a neighbouring farm.

The 300 cattle on the farm are Limousin crosses with all progeny finished on-site.

Measures explored included renewable energy generation, nutrient applications, soil management and scrutiny of production costs.

Find out more about what has been happening at Upper Nisbet here.

Torr Farm

Torr Farm has 170 dairy cows, mainly Holstein Frisian and Montbelliarde along with a few Ayrshire and Norwegian Red. The business retains all of the offspring from the dairy herd, either for breeding or for finishing.

Approximately 100ha of the 398 ha farm is woodland or rough grazing, 80 ha are used for growing cereals especially arable silage, spring barley and winter wheat, and the rest is sown to grass for grazing and silage.

Measures explored included improved energy use in the dairy, reducing the age of calving and improved farm drainage and alleviation of compaction.

Find out more about what has been happening at Torr Farm here.

Stewart Tower Farm

A mixed 160 ha dairy and arable farm near Stanley in Perthshire. Wheat and barley are grown for feed with some malting barley plus grass silage. The farm also has an ice cream business, including an ice cream parlour within the farm shop.

Measures explored included improving fertiliser and dung policy, improving grassland management, tailoring fungicide sprays to arable crops, better use of electricity and installation of a 100kW wind turbine.

Find out more here.

13.05.15 Farming for a better climate – the Scottish project showing increased profits and lower emissions

So the last initiative that we will be looking at during this (slightly elongated!) monthly theme of global emissions, is the Farming For a Better Climate project from Scotland.  

The project is run by the Scottish Rural University College (now called SRUC, formally SAC) on behalf of the Scottish government and provides practical help and advice to Scottish farmers to help them choose the most relevant measures to improve both their farm performance, and resilience to future climate change effects.

The project runs climate change focus farms which aim to look at the effects to the farm business of implementing some of the practices that are recommended to reduce emissions.  Working from a body of academic research and on-farm results, the project has come up with five key areas to consider where most farms can benefit from, without any loss of productivity.

Use Electricity and Fuels efficiently

Why? 

The aim is to ensure that farm equipment, vehicles and buildings are using energy and fuel as efficiently as possible.  Using less fossil fuel means lower energy bills and fewer emissions.

How to do it

Monitor and record fuel use, conduct a farm electricity and fuel audit.  This will highlight which activities are costing you money.  

What are the real farm results?

Dairy farm Ross Paton saved nearly £2,000 on the farm electricity bill and £6,600 on farm diesel through simple tweaks to current practices.  Beef and sheep farmer David Houston saved around £450 just from reducing the daily running time of the feed mixer.

Locking carbon into the farm

Why?

Through slight adaptations to current practices, farms are in a good position to lower their carbon footprint and lock carbon into the soil and vegetation, a process called carbon sequestration.

How to do it

Take action to control soil erosion

Consider reduced tillage on suitable land and ploughing in stubble and crop residues

Manage existing woodlands and consider new planting schemes

Retain and conserve semi-natural grasslands.

Develop renewable energy on-farm

Why?

Renewable energy can boost farm incomes and secure a source of power for the future.

How?

Consider if your farm is suitable for any renewable energy technology including solar, wind, hydro, anaerobic digestion or heat pumps.

Real farm results

Electricity use in the dairy, ice cream parlour and farm shop at Stewart Tower accounted for ~130,000kWh per year.  Conservative estimates by farmer Neil Butler suggested that the 100kW wind turbine would produce over 200,000 kWh per year.  If half of that was used in the farm shop and dairy, savings on the electricity bill would be in the region of £12,000 per year.

Making the best of nutrients

Why?

To make the best use of nutrients and manures on the farm and reduce emissions.

Better targeting of fertilisers can cut waste and improve profits.  For the majority it will not be practical or economic to replace all fertilisers with manures and slurries but the aim should be to make maximum use of the manures and slurries that are available on-farm.

How to do it

Soil testing will help you know pH and nutrient status of soils and adjust fertiliser and lime accordingly

Know nutrient value of manures and slurries

Apply fertiliser at the optimum rate and time for the crop

Real farm data

Each 10m3 tanker of dairy slurry could equate to the equivalent of £30 – 50 worth of fertiliser.

Optimising Livestock Management

Why?

To ensure efficient management of livestock and poultry and their manure.  This can significantly reduce GHG emissions and improve farm profitability.

How

Draw up and regularly review animal health plans

Increase longevity of breeding stock – which will result in a higher output per breeding unit

Improve efficiency of feed conversion; achieve optimum daily liveweight gain

Increase efficiency in fertility

Consider slurry and manure management

Real farm data

By making good quality silage and knowing its feed value, Ross Paton at Torr Farm was able to reduce 1kg concentrate per dairy cow per day over the housed period.  Over the typical winter, this saved 32 tonnes of concentrate which would have cost the business £10,355 and reduced the farm carbon footprint.

This project is doing great stuff in Scotland and putting some much needed farm data onto the recommended management.  Later this week I’ll post the links to a couple of the farm case studies that have reduced emissions and improved profits, the ideal win-win that we all aspire to!

To read more about the project please click here

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