Farm Net Zero February update

Welcome to our February Farm Net Zero (FNZ) update, sharing updates for our farmers and the wider community this project supports. We’re very happy to see the associated newsletter is reaching increasing numbers and do hope that with more engagement we can really celebrate and disseminate what our fantastic Farm Net Zero community is showcasing.

New resources

We are pleased to share with you some recent resources that have been produced over the winter as part of the project.

Read about our trial on grazed winter cover crops in this handy pdf factsheet. Key criteria to assess on farm are livestock growth rate, forage yield, and seed costs. This fact sheet focuses on seed selection and cost.

Winter vetch (left) and common vetch (right)

We have also released a factsheet in response to the maize establishment trial at Tregooden Farm.  Here, they ran three different trial plots, the first conventionally ploughed, sumoed and drilled, a second one was Sumo trio cultivated only and drilled, and the third was direct drilled -all 3 plots drilled with a Mzuri strip till machine. You can read the factsheet hereYou can access all the other FNZ resources on the FNZ resources webpage here.

Recent events

Throughout the winter months the Farm Net Zero partners have run some insightful events: 

In October 2022, The Nattle family kindly hosted a group of farmers at their dairy farm in the Tamar Valley to look at the establishment and management of herbal leys. The event discussed the many benefits associated with herbal leys including, but not limited to: 

  • Nitrogen fixation by legumes resulting in reduced (on cutting ground) or no (on grazing ground) need for purchased fertiliser
  • Drought resilience from the deeper rooting species
  • Improved soil health through enhanced soil biology, carbon sequestration and structure
Milking cows moving off the herbal ley

To find out more details about the event head here.

In November 2022 Tim Dart of the Devon Wildlife Trust (who is also a Farm Net Zero Monitor Farmer), Hannah Jones of Farm Carbon Toolkit, James Ruddick from Cornwall Council and Jenny Rogers from Forest for Cornwall discussed issues focussing on how to plan for the future with environmental stewardship. The evening was aimed at supporting farmers to understand the funding opportunities that are available that not only increase economic resilience, but have several other on farm benefits such as increasing shelter for livestock, and preventing soil erosion. Read about it here.

Attendees at the November event

In December 2022, Blable Farm in Wadebridge (one of our demo farms) hosted an event to discuss outwintering livestock on forage/cover crops. To read about the many associated merits head here.

Outwintering livestock grazing at Blable Farm

And on the 3rd of February, members of the FNZ team held a stall at the ‘Imagining a Net Zero Future for Falmouth’ event. Featuring over 15 local environmental organisations, the pavilion transformed into an inspiring space for the Falmouth community to learn more about the small everyday changes they could implement to work towards a Net Zero Future.

Guests approached our team eager to learn more about climate friendly gardening. Hannah Jones’ infectious enthusiasm for the project was demonstrated during her talk on ‘Greenhouse gas emissions counting in our fields, gardens and allotments – what can I do?’, resulting in 3 pledges being made on our new postcards that day!’ You can find out more about the pledge cards below.

Hannah Jones and a stall guest at the event in Falmouth

Additionally, between our partners we have had a presence at the Oxford Real Farming Conference and Dairy Tech.

Please do keep an eye out for future events on our events page here.

Demo farms update

As ever the demo farms are constantly trialling and developing innovations and planning and running events.

  • Ennis BartonAndrew Brewer has received planning for solar and is interested in the sustainability of grazing sheep under the panels, whilst also increasing biodiversity. Discussions are on-going on the continuing trial on soil recovery after potatoes, and data and literature is being reviewed on milk yield, quality variability and herbal leys. Watch this space to find out more!
  • Blable FarmThe herbal leys trials are ongoing. Mike and Sam Roberts who run the farm are looking into the comparison of weight in cattle on and off diverse cover crops, crucially looking at livestock health as well as soil health. They have several plans for farmer meetings with external groups, these groups include: BGS, NFU Mutual, and a local beef vet group. Additionally, Mike is looking into hosting university lecturer(s), which could bring about some really educational sessions. 
  • Erth BartonErth Barton are hosting more ongoing herbal ley trials, alongside their continuing pasture cropping trials. Also, Hannah Jones, from Farm Carbon Toolkit, has given Erth Barton’s project manager, Tim Williams, support for an upcoming soil data talk at Harper Adams (read on to find out more details).

Duchy College Monitor Farms update

We are working with our Monitor Farms to complete their next round of carbon footprints, and comparing them to previous carbon footprints to look at areas that have changed and areas to work on. We are excited to get back out into the fields to collect the 2023 batch of soil samples.

One of our Monitor Farmers, Anthony Ellis, is trialling sheep grazing winter cereals and we have collected baseline soil samples to assess any impact on soil quality. We will continue to work with Anthony through to harvest to compare the grazed and ungrazed cereals and apply carbon footprint figures to the process.

Innovation for Agriculture Net Zero event

Join FNZ partner Innovation for Agriculture for the first ever ‘Farm of the Future: Net Zero in Practice event.Taking place on the 13th April at Harper Adams University, this free event will offer farmers an insight into the changes that their farming businesses will need to undertake to reach Net Zero. 

Including discussions on:

  • Decarbonising livestock production. 
  • Circular solutions for biowastes, clean energy, nutrients and future fuels.
  • Autonomous vehicles and robotics.

To register please click here – spaces are strictly limited.

Westcountry Rivers Trust Update

The West Country Rivers Trust have designed some fantastic postcards that will be given to attendees of future climate-friendly gardening workshops. The postcards are aimed at encouraging people to pledge to help reduce the impacts of climate change through refining their gardening and growing skills to a more climate friendly manner. You can join in and download your own pledge postcard here, please do share it afterwards on twitter/instagram!

One of WRT’s pledge postcards

There are six WRT FNZ events planned for the next twelve months, with topics to focus on soil health, water quality and phosphate. There will also be more citizen science to get involved in, and plenty of climate friendly gardening workshops which will focus on the following topics:

  • know your soil
  • pond and rain gardens
  • forest gardens
  • no dig and green manure
  • compost tea

These workshops are all planned for April/May (exact dates tbc) and will be kicking off with a Soil Health workshop for Mithian allotment holders, kindly supported by St Agnes Council. This will be closely followed by a public workshop on the 26th April, hosted by the beautiful and productive Real Food Garden near Wadebridge. This workshop will focus on ponds and wetlands, exploring how ponds act as major carbon sinks, mitigate climate change and provide some of the most species rich habitat in the UK.

Keep an eye on our event page for more details

Innovative Farmers Update

Compost Management

The compost field lab is well underway, and the group have been busy making compost over the winter.  As well as contacting each other on their WhatsApp group, they will be meeting in early March at Prideaux Gardens (one of the trial sites) to discuss the field lab and plan their tasks and protocols for the next few months.

Join us for a second field lab on maize establishment methodsFollowing a successful farmer event in Stoke Climsland a group of farmers have joined with Innovative Farmers to set up a new field lab. This on-farm trial will focus on maize establishment methods, building on the trial carried out by Malcolm and Catherine Barrett at Tregooden farm.

If you are based in east or mid Cornwall, and are interested in taking part in this field lab or learning more about it, please join us for a discussion and lunch at Malcolm and Catherine Barrett’s Tregooden Farm on 10th March. Follow the eventbrite link here: Join a Farm Net Zero On-Farm trial on maize establishment methods Tickets, Fri 10 Mar 2023 at 12:00 | Eventbrite

The group will agree on what questions they want to ask in the field lab, and agree how the trial should be designed.  It will also be a chance to learn about the Barretts’ own experiences of trialing different maize establishment methods.

What next?

Other FNZ Events:

  • March 22nd – Bennaman Slurry system methane event at Trenance. 

Others with dates TBC:

  • April – Silage event at Mearfield.
  • May – Dairy and herbal leys possible to be held at Ennis Barton. 

In addition Innovation for Agriculture will have a presence at Catchment Sensitive Farming events and Beef Expo.

Getting in touch

If you have any questions or ideas that would further support the community of farmers that we are working with, please get in touch at [email protected]

All information about the project including upcoming events and resources are available on the Farm Carbon Toolkit website. If there is anything you would like to see featured please let us know.

This project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, is a partnership between Cornwall College, The Farm Carbon Toolkit, Duchy College’s Rural Business School, Westcountry Rivers Trust, Innovative Farmers and Innovation for Agriculture.