A new agronomy and consultancy service has been launched to help farmers adopt regenerative agriculture.
Groundswell Agronomy, which comes just as farmers face reductions with the Basic Payment Scheme and growing environmental concerns over production methods, aims to deliver the solutions needed for future business profitability.
The move from sustainable practices to regenerative agriculture systems requires a different way of thinking, say the founders of the service, which will have the three key principles of permanent soil cover, diverse cropping and direct drilling at its core.
Groundswell Agronomy is the brainchild of John Cherry, the Groundswell show organiser, and his agronomist, Richard Harding, and will be based on independent advice and knowledge transfer achieved though industry-wide collaboration.
Both men recognised the need for a reimagined service which could be tailored to provide anything from a complete system rethink to advice on just one specific technique of regenerative agriculture, including financial implications.
The service can be tailored to provide as much or as little ongoing support as required, they stress, but will be all about putting regenerative agriculture into practice.
“Agronomy is one aspect of the service,” explained Richard Harding.
“It will also cover areas such as reintroducing livestock enterprises in innovative ways and focusing on enterprise stacking to maximise profitability, while moving towards a truly circular economy.”
Regenerative agriculture requires a long-term systems approach, which is why farmer-led collaborative research is needed to drive innovation, rather than top-down research, he added.
As a result, Groundswell agronomists will also act as facilitators of this work, combining it with financial and physical benchmarking of small regional farmers groups.
The existing Groundswell benchmarking group, run by Gary Markham of Land Family Business for the last three years, has already shown what is possible when a no-till or regenerative agriculture system is compared with a conventional plough-based system.
“Working capital is £260/ha less and variable costs are £74/ha less,” he reveals. “Capital value of machinery is £186/ha less, which is £13/t of wheat less.”
After such a difficult 2020 season, the reduced capital required to run the farm business is a big advantage, believe the founders.
The Groundswell show, which takes place in June, highlighted the need for advice on implementing the ideas picked up at the event, with farmers reporting that they often felt isolated when changing to a different system.
Groundswell Agronomy is made up of independent consultants and agronomists, who will offer services to make farm businesses resilient and sustainable, whatever their size or structure.
For more information, visit the dedicated Groundswell website.