Recently we have been looking in more detail at how we can begin farming regeneratively to greater benefit both the environment and crops at Trelonk. While we already participate in good agricultural practices, such as contour ploughing and variable rate nutrient application, there is more work to be done before we are truly regenerative.
Regenerative agriculture describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by building soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity resulting in improved carbon sequestration and public resources such as water and air.
There are many complex and diverse activities that can provide a vehicle for the above however there are also many hurdles to farming regeneratively too.
In arable situations as we are in here, most if not all regenerative agriculture practices involve making large changes to the system of how the crop is managed throughout the season, namely through the use of innovative machinery but also other practices that would have been common three or four generations ago.
Inter-row hoeing is an old fashioned technique which has been modernised through the use of agri-tech. Nowadays, rather than hand steered, GPS equipped implements are able to remove weeds in between rows of the crop, rendering herbicides obsolete. This is a tried and tested method that works very well in high weed burden situations such as what we have at Trelonk. It does however require repetition, but again at the fraction of the cost of spraying. Recently this activity has been taken a step further with robotised weeders entering the market, these work by using a number of sensors and cameras which can accurately identify and destroy weeds both within the row and in-between rows with great precision
No till agriculture is the next step up, whereby specialist drills are used to plant seed in the ground. Currently we use more aggressive techniques for cultivation and establishment which disrupt the soil. No till farming is designed to do the opposite via precision application of seeds into a narrow cultivated strip, whereby fertiliser can be accurately supplied to each seed dramatically reducing waste and emissions from artificial fertilisers. Instead of having 12+ passes of the field in a season, a move to no till would dramatically reduce this to 5 or less. The reduced movement of the soil allows the structure to improve which aids water retention and drainage and encourages biodiversity to thrive amongst crops. When combined with a Controlled Traffic Farming System (CTF), which entails machinery running on the exact same tracks year on year to localise and minimise compaction, it would then be heading towards “best in class”.
Regenerative farming is as much about old techniques as new ones; there is an extremely strong argument for the implementation of livestock into arable systems largely for weed control and improved fertility. If grazed at the correct time, through a mob grazing system, weeds are prevented from going to seed, whilst at the same time valuable organic matter is replaced and food and other animal products may be produced as by-products of the system.
These are just a handful of routes for a more regenerative Trelonk as we continue to strive towards being leaders in our field to benefit the wider environment and be proactive in our approach to climate change and sustainability.