Soil Regenerative Agriculture Group

The Soil Regenerative Agriculture Group brought together five farmers who worked together to establish how best to support, enhance and protect their farm soils. 

What was the Soil Regenerative Agriculture Group?

The Soil Regenerative Agriculture Group brought together five farmers who worked together to establish how best to support, enhance and protect their farm soils.  Their aim was to improve production, tailor inputs and maximise profitability.  Many other benefits can be gained from healthy and resilient soils, ranging from improving water retention and drainage to supporting biodiversity and helping to lock up carbon on the farm.

What did the group look at?

With support from SAC Consulting, researchers and other industry specialists, the group explored a range of management techniques, treatments, crops and rotations to help to shape and protect a resilient farm soil.

How can you benefit?

We can all make changes, but it helps to hear about the experiences of other working farmers who have tried it out first.  Watch the farmer videos and read their case studies and farm updates.  We’ve produced a series of practical guides based around five principles of regenerative agriculture and provide a good starting point when thinking about improving your farm soils.

Group Members

James Hopkinson, Cloud Farming

James is a partner and founder of Cloud Farming and Arable Ventures, combining the family farm Lindertis and Walker-Munro Farms, growing winter wheat, spring barley, winter barley, oats, peas, linseed, beans and grass in an extensive rotation.   Farming around  1,100 ha of arable land, James has a range of soil types; three-quarters of which is sandy loam with the remainder sandy silt, organic or clay loams.  Dung is put back on to the land via a straw for dung exchange at Walker-Munro Farms and an in-house cattle enterprise at Lindertis.

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Hugh Black, Backboath

Hugh farms in partnership with his father James. The business extends to around 400 ha, 50 ha of which is rented ground. Although there is some variation in soil type, most soils at Backboath are sandy loams. James and Hugh produce winter wheat, winter and spring barley, oilseed rape and potatoes. They operate a six to seven-year rotation with two breaks.

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Ben Barron, Leitfie Farms

Ben farms over 200 ha in Perthshire with his family. Leitfie is a mixed arable and beef unit, growing grass for livestock plus barley, wheat, oats, beans and oilseed rape, with the intention of trying linseed in 2020. The rotation at Leitfie will be a diverse 7 crop 9-year rotation with 3 break crops.

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Douglas Ruxton, Mosside-of-Esslie

Douglas Ruxton farms Moss-side of Easslie, near Fettercairn, a 121 ha arable unit. Following some research and investigation, Douglas moved away from traditional ploughing to direct drilling, investing in a Claydon Strip Till Drill and straw harrow. Moving to this system in 2012, Douglas has learned a lot about his soils already, and on the whole, is very encouraged by the results to date.

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Ross Mitchell, Castleton Farm

Ross Mitchell runs Castleton Farm in partnership with his father Murray. The business covers over 600 ha, specialising in strawberries, raspberries, cherries and blueberries, supplying Marks & Spencers. Ross and Murray have some root crops and daffodils, although the land is predominantly managed for soft fruit production under polytunnels.

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What is Regenerative Agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture (also referred to as conservation agriculture or ecological farming), is an approach centred around improving and revitalising soil health. The group are focusing their work around the following principles:

  • Minimise soil disturbance – help support a healthy soil food web.
  • Maximise crop diversity – different crops bring different rooting depths and attributes,
  • supporting a range of biodiversity both above and below ground.
  • Provide constant soil cover – protect soils from wind and water erosion; reduces water loss.
  • Keep a living root in the system – root exudates benefit microbial populations, supporting soil health.
  • Integration of livestock – promoting species diversity from microbes to mammals and putting dung back into the system.

The key will be working out how we can integrate these five principles into a profitable business in Scotland.

Regenerative Agriculture Resources

More from the Soil Regenerative Agriculture Group

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