As we enter 2022, I am delighted to see our agroforestry project begin.
When I started the Resilient & Ready programme in 2019, one of my ambitions was to embrace more climate-friendly farming, largely by planting more trees on the estate to create a natural carbon store. I spent much of last winter attending various webinars and researching agroforestry so I could put a plan in place.
In January, we finally planted 434 trees including 40 apple trees, 50 pear trees and 44 walnut trees. Apples will work well as we have a mix of eating and cooking apples on the advice of our nursery, so we can maximise the potential to provide apples to the public buying our pork and meat boxes.
Two days after we planted them we learnt a valuable lesson as we hadn’t guarded them, and some pesky rabbits got to them!
Elsewhere, our winter wheat and winter linseed are all looking well – although oilseed rape is suffering from cabbage stem flea beetle rearing its ugly head, so that will be one to watch.
We’ve also been doing some work to reduce our reliance on glyphosate. Our cover crops were rolled in the middle of the night when there was a frost, instead of being sprayed off.
We are attempting to get ahead of the game in case glyphosate is no longer available, which is why large biomass areas have gone through rollers, allowing us to better target glyphosate applications and, in doing so, apply less.
In the next few months, we will be ramping up our educational efforts with a school visit planned with LEAF Education in March. Then, we have visits from a farm manager in Oxfordshire, who is bringing along his trustees, as well as Natural England, which will visit for a basic overview of farming. I’m particularly keen to get across the contrast between ploughing and non-ploughing methods and our conservation activities.
Thanks to a capital grant, we have fitted a new piece of camera technology to our sprayer to provide images which will allow us to apply more precision farming methods.