Alex Cherry, Groundswell Director, reflects on some of the key moments at the event this year.
The third annual Groundswell No-Till Show and Conference took place at Lannock Manor Farm in June and was attended by over 1,200 farmers, landowners and other delegates with a shared interest in soil health. The theme of the conference was health, the idea being that health is fundamental for soil, plants and the humans and animals that survive off the plants. The additional health argument lies in a healthy balance sheet and the take home message from Groundswell this year was the sense of achievability health through a more conservation-minded approach to agriculture.
Groundswell had over 70 different sessions taking place with discussions ranging from no-till practicalities to the diversity and carbon. The keynote speakers, who had flown in from all corners of the world, brought with them fresh ideas and ways of thinking that sometimes are hard to fathom for traditional UK farmers. Highlights included Dan Kittredge (Bionutrient FA, USA) questioning the assumptions when it comes to nutritional density of food. For anyone even faintly interested in livestock, Greg Judy (Green Pasture Farm, USA) was an inspiration to hear from as he explained how mob grazing has transformed his farms soils and bottom line.
The results of the much-anticipated No-Till Benchmarking Group, the first of its kind in Europe were released to a packed-out conference barn by Gary Markham of Land Family Business. The independent group of 12 no-till farms revealed an average £10/t saving on wheat production and machinery costs averaging at £31/t, compared to £54/t with other establishment systems. Delegates also heard from Jake Freestone of Overbury Enterprises who claimed his establishment costs have fallen to just £52/ha on their 1,200ha Worcestershire estate.
Extreme conditions in the demonstration field really tested the 13 Direct Drill Manufacturers who illustrated the establishment, either by tine or disc into a waist high multi-species cover crop. Some tractors had crimper rollers attached onto the front providing a forward-thinking approach to terminating crops without tillage when direct drilling.
Amongst other highlights in the field; Cranfield University showcased their rainfall simulator showing a constant rainfall event on different soil conditions and how the water percolation and soil organic matter run-off is affected. In the AHDB Soil Pit Elizabeth Stockdale was keen to explain to farmers how significant it was that a root from the cover crop had followed a worm hole nearly 2m deep to find moisture and even in the drought conditions there was visible water drops forming at the bottom.
The dates for next year’s Groundswell have been set as 26th and 27th June 2019 at Lannock Manor Farm, Hertfordshire. More information can be found at www.groundswellag.com