There are lots of terms used to describe the way of farming that we will be discussing here, but I believe that “Regenerative” is the most appropriate one. Conservation Agriculture suggests keeping things as they are now, but who wants to conserve an already degraded resource. There are still some excellent soils in the UK, but it has to be said that they are the exception rather than the rule. The winter of 2019 has highlighted the problems that many growers face with waterlogged soils and an inability to get onto the land and plant anything.
1. Keep the soil surface covered as much as possible
2. Try to limit the amount of physical and chemical disturbance of the soil as much as possible
3. A wide diversity of plants is encouraged to increase soil biodiversity
4. Keep living roots in the soil for as much of the year as possible
5. Integrate grazing livestock into the system
If you are new to this topic, there is no better reference than the excellent book by American farmer and rancher Gabe Brown, “Dirt to Soil”. It describes his journey of over 20 years where he has regenerated his resources by continuously enhancing the living biology in his soil. There are some excellent UK based farmers that are also adopting these principles and we would encourage you to become members of BASE-UK to learn from their experience. (https://base-uk.co.uk/) At Oakbank, Ian Gould has taken the lead in looking at how we can assist growers to use plants to improve their soils. We can supply a complete service for cover and companion cropping, which we have been developing for the last 5 years. Our trials work with Opico and Sky Agriculture is well-known and we often have Open Days at which we demonstrate our latest ideas on a large scale, using the excellent Sky Easy Drill
This really is a huge topic and we would be delighted to help you with your project, whatever your starting point. If you have an interest in cover and companion cropping, please give Ian Gould a call and he will be pleased to offer whatever advice you need. We can also add you to our Cover Crop group so that you are advised of any relevant events that are happening.