The Soil Carbon Project

The Soil Carbon Project is an innovative project that aims to help Cornish farmers manage soils in a more sustainable and profitable way. Interest in soils has risen dramatically in recent years, with the prospect of farmers receiving payments for environmental goods and services becoming ever more likely. The Soil Carbon Project was a collaboration between Duchy College’s Rural Business School, Rothamsted Research North Wyke and the University of Plymouth with funding from Agri-tech Cornwall. It aimed to develop protocols for measuring and valuing soil health and carbon sequestration that are scientifically robust and practical.

While interest in the subject continues to increase, a great deal of uncertainty around measurement and management of soil health remains. This project worked to uncover what is happening beneath Cornish farms and develop practical solutions to valuing the hidden asset that puts Cornwall at the forefront of this emerging science.

The project had three main objectives:

  1. To understand the best methods for monitoring soil health (both in-field and in the lab)
  2. To assess the impact of management practice on soil health
  3. To investigate the impact of soil carbon on the whole-farm carbon footprint

The project involved a network of 85 farms, reflecting a range of soil types and enterprises, as well as a collaboration with Rothamsted Research North Wyke and the University of Plymouth. One of the primary aims was to work out a consistent set of metrics that can be used to identify and quantify changes in soil health and carbon levels, which could provide an evidence base to support future policy changes.

A Soil Carbon Field and Lab Guide has been produced to summarise the project’s main findings and offer some guidance on best practice to farmers and advisors.

To find out more please contact Stephen Roderick on 01209 722148, email s.roderick@cornwall.ac.uk or Alex Bebbington on 01579 372370.

Status: Completed (2018-2021)

Agri-tech Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly

Agri-tech Cornwall was a £11.8m initiative to create a new sector for the Cornish economy, helping the United Kingdom become a world leader in agricultural technology, and sustainability..

We have supported ambitious small and medium-sized Cornish companies develop innovations to improve efficiency, profitability and resilience in the agricultural sector – in field or moor, forest or shore.

Agricultural technologies can be any innovation that makes agriculture more efficient and productive, more resilient and secure, more profitable, and better able to enhance and protect the natural environment and those that farm it.

The project was funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

This was a unique opportunity to develop and apply new technologies assisted by project partners, research grants and graduate placements.

Status: Completed (2016-2021)

Toolbox of Multi-species Swards (TOMS)

This project aims to support and promote the use of multi-species swards, particularly in Cornwall. It is a collaborative project between the Rural Business School at Duchy College and Rothamsted Research North Wyke.

The majority of Cornwall’s farmed land is grassland, typically ryegrass and clover. But multi-species swards, also known as herbal leys or diverse forages, offer many potential benefits for grassland production. To find out more, visit the Diverse Forages page here.

There is growing interest in the use of multi-species swards, but limited information available on establishment, management and proven economic benefits. This particularly true in Cornwall, as a lot of research to date is not relevant to the environmental and economic conditions prevalent in the county.

The Toolbox of Multi-species Swards has three main areas of work:

  • A programme of field research on commercial farms in Cornwall
  • The development of a multi-media toolkit on establishment and management
  • A farmer survey of the perceived benefits and barriers to uptake

Field research commenced on eight farms in July 2018 and aims to:

  • Compare performance of a highly diverse species mixture (known as ‘TOMS’) against a perennial ryegrass and white clover sward and the farmer’s standard ley
  • Compare forage nutritional quality and micronutrient content of the different swards
  • Compare soil leaching resulting from the different swards, on a select number of farms
  • Undertake pollinator surveys during a 5 week ‘shut-off’ period on a select number of farms

In addition, work at Rothamsted is investigating the impact of species composition, sowing rate and seedbed preparation on forage quality and quantity. Rothamsted are also defining and analysing the silage made from multi-species swards, including work to determine optimum mixtures and conditions.

Farmers drilled experimental sward mixtures in autumn 2018, following soil surveys. The project team conducted the first species surveys and forage collection in spring 2019, prior to farm grazing and silage cuts. Work is also underway on the multi-media toolkit, with an academic literature review nearing completion and design for an app and all-weather reference guide in progress.

For further information, contact Gemma Eales: gemma.eales@duchy.ac.uk

Status: Active (2018)

SWARM Knowledge Hub

The SWARM Knowledge Hub is a web information service dedicated to south west farmers and growers.

The site helps to show that sustainable agriculture means more profit for the farming community.

It is largely divided into six key resource themes of soils, nutrients and manures, water, energy efficiency, renewable technologies and trees and wood.

    • Learn how you can reduce the costs of farm inputs
    • Increase profits by making better use of farm resources
    • Help decide what energy saving investments to make on your farm
    • Get unbiased reports on the latest resource management research
    • Learn how other farmers are tackling resource management on their farms
    • Get the latest news and information on funding and training

Information on a range of different topics is presented in a variety of ways including videos, decision making tools, factsheets and interactive features to allow the farming community to improve profitability and become more sustainable.

Status: Active (2015)