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BACKGROUND

Sustainable Futures is a venture administered through Future Food Solutions. It uses the SAI platform as a benchmark tool to establish sustainable farmer groups and practices.

Alongside Muntons Malt Supply Chain Ltd., It involves the collaboration of supply chain specialists and stakeholders involved throughout the supply chain, including: Heineken, Diageo, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, WWF, Alltech, NFU. Along with many others and a network of 120 large professional broad acre farmers.

The programme works with the aim of delivering sustainable solutions across the whole supply chain. Doing this through advanced peer learning and discussions between farmers and organisations, to create a platform for knowledge and information sharing on sustainable farming practices. Helping to reduce the environmental impact of farming by addressing the carbon footprint, ensuring the maintenance of positive soil conditions, finding alternative methods of pest and disease control and using the best precision farming equipment. Meanwhile, allowing farmers to maximize their return on costs and having a positive impact further along the supply chain.

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SUCCESS

The scheme has been positively welcomed by many farmers, particularly in Yorkshire. Although some were slightly sceptical at first, through partnerships and knowledge sharing about the adoption of precision farming techniques, the benefits have been successfully harnessed.

Where some challenges have been faced, stakeholders have worked together to overcome and find sustainable alternatives. Take for example, the move of several farmers from traditional combination drill ploughing to No-Till direct drilling as part of precision farming techniques. Whilst this has increased the accuracy of drilling, allowing inter row cultivations and improved soil structure, it however creates a furrow in the soil which has encouraged a growing population of slugs.

Rather than using a blanket application of Metaldehyde pellets to address the slug problem which poses the risk of leaching into the local watercourse, farmers have shared experiences of a number of alternative practices. Such as double rolling the same way as drilling and then 90 degrees the second time, making the soil more consolidated which is cheaper than a blanket application of pellets. Replacing Metaldehyde to Sluxx, a ferric phosphate compound which is less polluting, was also a suggested alternative. Additionally, Mzuri stubble rakes which could be used at high speeds, disturbing the slug eggs and exposing them to the sunlight to dry them out, providing a cheaper and less environmental damaging solution.

 

Graham Potter- Wheat, Barley, Fodder Beet and Oil Seed Rape

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“It’s been great fun and I have made a load of new friends. There are lots of meetings to go to, but I always like to go to them as there is a lot of knowledge sharing between farmers really keen to push their businesses forward”

Techniques adopted:

1) Precision farming using a Claydon Seed drill rather than cultivation.

2) Introduction of cover crops.

3) Drone imagery to accurately feed crops when they need and identify nitrogen requirements.

4) Accurate soil maps

Benefit: Direct drilling has allowed Graham to achieve an accuracy of 2.5cm, allowing inter row cultivations, leaving the stubble standing and drilling between the rows.  The introduction of cover crops has captured spare nutrients left from previous crops and helped to build up organic matter on the soil, improving soil structure and aiding worm activity. The use of drone imagery has helped to reduce waste and accurate soil maps have allowed the rate of spread of fertiliser to be varied. This has reduced any waste fertiliser, helping get more for less and preventing leaching into the water. 

 

Angus Gowthorpe- White Wheat, Winter and Spring Barley, Spring Linseed, Grass

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“ I joined the group in order to gain knowledge from other farmers and speakers whom I  could learn from and quiz.  It has been possible to grow a network of contacts in the supply chain and understand their requirements and importance of sustainability, both financially and physically”

 Techniques adopted:

1) Sustainable crop rotation- 40% being spring cropping.

2) Cover crops including phacelia, oats, buckwheat, clovers and sunflowers.

3) Use of a No- till drill and no cultivations are carried out unless a compaction problem is found.

4) Use of Fibrophos for any P and K requirements instead of bagged product.

Benefit: Regular meetings have helped Angus to plan which cover crops would be most suitable for his farm and to find alternatives to an increasing reliance on chemicals and inorganic fertilisers. By using cover crops and the rotation of crops, a greater diversity has been achieved which in turn naturally improves the organic matter levels in the soil, reducing the reliance on expensive fertilisers. There has been an increase in the number of beneficial predators and wildlife on the farm such as skylarks, lapwings and brown hare. No-till farming has increased natural drainage and the water holding capacity so that soils have become more resilient to extreme weather conditions and there is reduced soil erosion. The amount of labour, fuel, wearing parts and horsepower has shrunk significantly and crops are established in a quarter of the time. Increased soil health has resulted in lower insect pest pressures, less weeds and reduced fungal diseases which has reduced the reliance on pesticide application. As a result, it has been possible to achieve more crops for less input and because the goods are produced under less environmentally damaging conditions they are worth a premium price.

 

Tim Stubbings – Malting barley, Wheat, Oilseed Rape, Cattle

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“I got involved because of the importance of looking after the land for the next generation. Leaving the farm and soil in the best possible condition for when my son takes over”

Techniques adopted: 

1) Cover crops including mustard.

2) Experimenting with direct drilling as an attempt to reduce cultivations.

3) Rather than buying fertilisers, manure from the farms own cattle is combine with the farms chopped wheat and straw.

Benefit: Direct drilling has allowed for lower energy routes to establish the crops and is also cheaper. Direct drilling rather than ploughing increases worm activity, encourages bacteria and is kinder on the soil which increases organic matter and nutrients. Replacing bought fertilisers with cattle manure from the farm saves cost and increases the organic matter in the soil. Improved direct links with other farmers and Heineken means that farmers can see what customers want and understand the requirements of the supply chain.

 

To see the recent Sustainable Future events that we have been involved in, click the following link: https://www.psmuntons.com/latest-news/sustainable-futures-event-at-bridlington/