Agroforestry and direct sales in carbon negative farm plans



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Reducing carbon emissions is a key goal for Hampshire farm manager and farmer in transition Andy Bason, who says it will improve profitability and benefit the environment.

Mr Bason has devised a series of short, medium and long term goals as he strives to develop a truly sustainable farming business – including 600ha of combinable crops at Newhouse Farm, Northington Down, Alresford.

While flexibility is vital and some deadlines can slip, Mr. Bason says he is determined to achieve the goals, set under the Resilient and Ready program offered by Linking the Environment and Farming (Leaf) and Corteva.

See also: Securing a sustainable future – where should farmers start?

The three-year program provides training, technical support and mentorship to farmers to become more sustainable, build the resilience of their own businesses, and gain the skills, confidence and know-how to be innovators in industry.

Farm facts

  • Main farm of 800 ha
  • 600ha cultivated
  • 70ha of wood
  • 40ha of winter thatch
  • Winter wheat, spring barley, spring beans, oats, flax and rapeseed
  • Cover crops before spring crops
  • New contract farming agreement for the neighboring 400ha

Transition goals

  • 30% reduction in carbon emissions
  • Establish 10ha of agroforestry
  • Plant 10ha of wood

Objective of the first year

The immediate priority is a 30% reduction in carbon emissions, coupled with an increase in the “active carbon” component of the farm’s soil, so that the nutrient cycle works well.

Following the advice of Ian Robertson of Sustainable Soil Management, Mr. Bason has already seen soil organic matter levels reach over 6% in some fields with small incremental changes, and he hopes to achieve an active carbon level of 2. %. This figure currently stands at 1.48%.

“We didn’t do anything radical,” he explains. “All crop residues are chopped up and put back on the ground, and we’ve been using cover cuts for about five years. “

Materials such as sewage sludge and compost are not used as a soil amendment, Mr. Bason preferring to keep the operation in-house and avoid contamination.

A soil management policy ensures the team sticks to 30m milestones and avoids moving around when wet, while cover crops help maintain soil structure.

Fertilizer use has decreased by 18% in 10 years, thanks to rotational changes, gains in soil health, and small deductions in applications.

Fuel consumption fell by 40%, from 82 liters / ha to 50 liters / ha.

With these changes and the presence of 70ha of wood, the farm is already carbon negative.

After performing a carbon footprint exercise with the Farm Carbon Toolkit, Andy is now looking to keep it that way and make further progress, rather than selling carbon credits.

Newhouse Farm switched to min-till in 2000 and “is now moving towards no-till”, using only the crops strategically. Mixtures of oat, flax and phacelia cover crops are grown, before being rolled flat in January in a gel.

“We have to cut down the biomass early,” he says. “Then we use glyphosate just before drilling. “

10-year objective

Its medium-term objectives are to introduce agroforestry on a 10 ha block of cultivated land, which, with the help of a few wild flowers, will increase the number of beneficial insects and reduce the use of pesticides.

He also intends to try to sell 30% of the farm’s produce directly to consumers.

“We already have direct sales of pork and lamb from the farm and have started selling flour to local mills,” he reveals. “There is a good demand and a lot of interest in what we’re doing. “

The trees will be planted this fall and will be mostly apple trees, with the possibility of a few walnut and pear trees as well. With eight 4m strips across the block, there will be 300 trees in total.

Mr. Bason’s plan is to produce Newhouse Farm apple juice, which could accompany the cans of pork and lamb.

He also hopes to be able to set up and launch a community project, allowing residents to come and pick apples and take advantage of the resource.

He has taken an agroforestry course and is therefore aware of the continued commitment to maintaining trees once they are established.

“We have already established a plum orchard, so we know what that entails.

After researching possible sources of funding, the company foots the bill for the trees at around £ 5,500 and the farm team will plant them.

Wildflowers will also be planted in the strips, so that the number of insects increases and the insecticides can be removed.

“Our use of pesticides is decreasing all the time,” he comments. “It will help to go even further. “

30-year goal

In the longer term, the company is developing a 10 hectare wood, with the aim of leaving a legacy of carbon capture and a place for wildlife.

Land use change can be a difficult subject, acknowledges Bason. But farm owner Ian Cammack was keen to move forward and a suitable site was identified.

Three less productive fields will be used for the project, so it has already produced its last combinable crop.

With many deciduous forests around, Mr. Bason got help from Kirsty Brannan, agricultural and timber conservation advisor at seed supplier Oakbank, in deciding where conservation efforts would make the most difference.

As a result, it will also plant new hedges and connect forests, providing more habitat and increasing the amount of carbon capture in woody biomass.

The creation of the new wood will involve the planting of 20,000 trees – 80% will be native species and 20% non-native. To encourage wildlife, there will be a pond in the middle and established rides and glades.

The high pressure from deer means it will need to be fenced, Mr. Bason reveals. “We also had to carefully ensure that it was climate proof by selecting the right species and the right mix. “

Funding for the new wood was provided by the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Creation Planning Grant.

Mr. Bason accepts that removing land from production is not right for all businesses, especially when it is likely to span generations.

A new contract farming agreement with a neighbor recently added 400 ha to its responsibilities, so productive arable farming is still on its agenda.

“We looked at nature-based solutions because we know we have to adapt and change to survive,” he concludes. “I got help to reduce some of the noise and am now able to do some of the things that should work here and allow us to deliver public goods.

Progress to date

  • 18% reduction in fertilizers
  • 40% fuel reduction
  • 10ha of agroforestry this fall
  • Site reserved for 10ha of woods

Alice Midmer, Demonstration and Innovation Manager at Leaf, reveals that the organization will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, so seeing what Newhouse Farm might look like 30 years from now is an interesting exercise.

“If you ask farmers how they want to leave their land, the answer is usually that they want it to be in better condition.

“Focusing on Mr. Bason’s One, 10 and 30 Year Goals, together we have crafted an ambitious plan that works for soil, air, water, biodiversity and the wider landscape, everything by producing healthy and nutritious food. “

Alice Midmer © Leaf

Andy Bason is one of our transition farmers. Join them as they strive to become financially and environmentally sustainable and how they intend to overcome the challenges they will face over the next five years.

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