Farm Net Zero is an exciting new partnership between the Rural Business School, Farm Carbon Toolkit, Westcountry Rivers Trust, Soil Association, Innovative Farmers, Innovation for Agriculture and Just Farmers.
It is a £1.2million project funded by the National Lottery Community Fund for five years from January 2021. This new project builds on the work we have been doing through the Agri-Tech Cornwall Soil Carbon Project.
The UK government has set legislation to transition the country to net zero emissions by 2050, with the National Farmer’s Union setting the challenge of net zero emissions agriculture by 2040. Through Farm Net Zero, we will be monitoring 40 farms in East Cornwall with soil sampling and carbon footprinting undertaken each year. The aim is to encourage reductions in carbon emissions and share knowledge between farmers and the wider community.
There are three Demonstration Farms in Farm Net Zero. These farms will host trials and workshops led by the Farm Carbon Toolkit team, with the aim of reaching Net Zero by 2025.
Mike, Alison and Sam Roberts run a Stabiliser suckler herd on 500 acres near Wadebridge. They aim to finish more cattle on-farm, with grassland rejuvenated with herbal leys and rotational grazing to reduce inputs. Although most cattle are outwintered, some are housed on greenwaste compost; this is then spread on fields to improve soil organic matter and fertility. The impact of these practices on soil health and the carbon footprint will be monitored throughout Farm Net Zero.
Nutrient analysis of the dirty compost bedding from Blable cattle sheds showed that it held more nutrients than traditional straw-based farmyard manure. A detailed summary of this analysis is available here.
Erth Barton is 300 acres on the Antony Estate. It is contract farmed by Tim and Claire Williams, with a focus on re-integrating livestock and improving biodiversity and soil carbon sequestration. Diverse leys are mob-grazed by cattle to restore fertility to the soil. These leys will form a permanent understorey for drilling heritage wheat into. Tim and Claire are also making and applying compost to the fields to increase soil organic matter. Some of these trials will be assessed during the course of Farm Net Zero.
A summary of the Farm Net Zero compost trial at Erth Barton can be found here.
Andrew and Claire Brewer farm 1000 acres near Fraddon. The farm has a 500-cow grass-based dairy, with other land rented out for vegetable production. Farm Net Zero activities at Ennis Barton will include monitoring soil health under herbal leys compared to ryegrass-clover and how to sustainably integrate vegetables within the grassland rotation, with the use of cover crops to restore soil health.
Cover crops have already been trialled at Ennis Barton as part of Farm Net Zero, the findings are available here.