Case Study: Ben Barron
Ben has a keen interest in managing, protecting and improving farm soils. He is also keen on investigating regenerative agriculture techniques that he can successfully use on the farm. Tillage was one area where he felt benefits could be gained, and in 2015 moved to a no-tillage system. The benefits of reduced or no-tillage are well documented, for example reducing soil erosion, nitrate leaching, increasing soil organic matter and supporting the activity of soil life, however, there are also challenges. Ben found the first year produced excellent results, but year two harvest was not as promising. Year three was much better, and Ben is hoping to see continued improvements from this approach.
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.
Some cover crops have been grown on the farm but to date, it has been found to be too expensive and there is not a large enough window in which to grow the cover crops in and get the most benefit out of them. Ideally, Ben would like to fully switch to winter cover crops. Ben has moved away from growing vegetables on the farm as he could see the negative impact these crops were having on his soil quality.
Ben wants to see how far fertiliser and chemical use can be reduced whilst also measuring and monitoring the effects of this new strategy. Ben says “It's going to be quite a challenge and we will need both Government and research behind us!”.
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