James Herrick: We need to play our part in sustainability

There are a few things that grind my gears: people not closing gates behind them, farmers driving their tractors on the road while on the phone (yes we can see you, you’re sat in a big glass box), and a general scepticism of emerging science.

During a recent AHDB farm management course, we covered the topic of sustainability and it got me thinking – how sustainable is British agriculture? Upon reflection, not very.

I am a relative newcomer to the world of regenerative agriculture. As a mixed farm with a healthy rotation, our business model has meant we haven’t experienced the full force of the depletion of natural resource that less diverse models have.

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However, we have not been completely immune to the effects and have come to realise that we need to play our part.

We adopted direct-drilling practices a couple of seasons ago, have moved away from seed dressings, and aim to reduce our artificial and chemical inputs as our soil health develops.

In time, we will be able to move away from the vast majority of these inputs altogether, without any negative effect on our yields, and ultimately improve our bottom line.

An athlete cannot perform at their peak if they are constantly fed an imbalanced, unnatural and processed diet, and a farm works in the same way. We have a responsibility to look after our land as we expect it to look after us.

I can’t help but think that there may well be an increase in mixed farming in the future, especially as more of us succumb to the over-exploitation of natural resources.

It won’t all be plain sailing and, as with anything new or different, mistakes are sure to be made.

More importantly, though, we have to learn from those mistakes and look forward to the opportunity to amend them and then inevitably make a few more.

I have been told that with sustainable agricultural models, ‘if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough’, and I can speak to the veracity of that statement.

I would like to encourage all farmers to improve their sustainability, especially as we move towards net-zero carbon.