The National Trust’s largest “in hand” lowland arable and livestock farm is set to become organic.

wimpole-farm national trust 
The National Trust has opted to go organic on its Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire.

Conversion of the 450ha (1200-acre) Wimpole Home Farm in Cambridgeshire is under way, with the first organic crop due to be harvested in 2011, the Trust said.

Full organic conversion of the farm could take up to seven years, it added.

Richard Morris, Wimpole Home Farm manager, said the Trust’s agricultural policy encouraged organic conversion as it believed it was a more sustainable way to farm.

About 7% of farms on the Trust’s land is registered as organic, compared to a national average of 4%, he said.

“We are in a much better position to encourage organic production if we can demonstrate the methods ourselves and assess whether they offer viable financial and environmental returns.

“Conversion of this relatively productive farm will really see if we can move away from reliance on artificial fertilisers and so reduce our carbon footprint but still remain sufficiently productive.”

Mr Morris said organic conversion would be phased over four years, after which organic wheat, beans, oats and barley would be grown in rotation.

Alison Smyth, National Trust regional farming advisor, said initial set-up costs would be offset by the removal of escalating input costs, such as fertiliser and pesticides.

“Input costs have risen by 30% and it’s a big bill we will no longer have to pay.

“Organic crop yields are lower, but the grain price achieved is higher. There are also grants available for organic farming conversion which will ease the pain of the first four years when our crop production will be limited.”