How farmers improve soil health all year round

Farmers manage 70% of Britain’s iconic countryside, and are dedicated to enhancing and protecting the environment, maintaining habitats for native plants and animals, maintaining footpaths, protecting watercourses and supporting wildlife species. Without fertile soils, farming is not productive. That’s why British farmers prioritise the protection and management of soil.

Frequently Asked Questions

Meet the farmers who play their part in improving soil health

Mark Pope farms 700 acres of arable land in Somerset, and has allowed coir rolls, which trap soil and water, to be placed in unproductive field corners to help prevent flooding.

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Mark recognises that the environment is key to farming’s productive potential. Marks farm has 48 km of field margins, providing habitat and food for birds and insects, and all watercourses are protected with 6 m margins.

Countless field corners are left uncultivated, providing habitat for wildlife and encouraging diverse plant species types, and over the last 15 years Mark has laid and gapped up over 1000 m of hedgerow.

Following the Somerset floods in 2013/2014, Mark has participated in an initiative to put in place interventions to ‘slow the flow’ of water in the landscape. Mark has allowed coir rolls, which trap soil and water, to be placed in unproductive field corners. 

Richard Bramley uses ‘cover cropping’ on his farm to preserve nutrients and protect soils at key times in the farming calendar.

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Richard Bramley is an arable farmer from York, farming 500 acres of combinable and root crops. Alongside his arable operations, Richard is involved in a diverse range of environmental work on his farm.

All watercourses are protected with 7 m diverse margins, which include approximately 3 ha with flowering plants.  In addition, he has 1 ha of land dedicated to providing overwintering bird food and 1 ha of pollen and nectar mix to provide food for bees, butterflies and other insects.

He has approximately 8 ha of grassland, which is mainly riverbanks and field corners, with no nutrient inputs, providing encouraging a diversity of plant species.

Roughly 12,000 of mixed hedgerow species types have been planted on Richard’s farm and 2,000 mixed trees.

Since 2007, Richard has used ‘cover cropping’ on the farm, which is temporary crop and is used to preserve nutrients and protect soils at key times in the farming calendar.

Solar power generated on the farm provides 100% of electricity for Richard’s farmhouse, office and three holiday barns. All heating is provided by biomass generated on the farm.

Phil Jarvis is working towards direct drilling on his farm, to allow the soils to remain undisturbed.

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 Phil Jarvis is the farm manager at the Allerton Project farm at Loddington in Leicestershire. The farm is 333 hectares growing winter wheat, winter oilseed rape, winter/spring oats and winter/spring beans. Sheep graze 30 hectares of permanent grassland. The farm has 20 hectares of woodland and numerous stream and ponds within its boundaries.

Soil management is important to farming operations at Loddington and Phil’s aim is to make the soils more resilient. Practices adopted on the farm include widening rotations, introducing cover crops, and making the transition towards direct drilling, which allows soils to remain undisturbed by leaving crop residues on the surface from harvest until sowing.

Water friendly farming measures have also being introduced.  These include interceptor wetlands receiving water from surface runoff and field drains, streamside fencing and installation of alternative livestock drinking sites. There are many grass buffer strips already in place.  Nutrient mapping and nutrient management planning have also been adopted.

All in all, some 10 % of the land at Loddington is out of production and in environmental enhancement to achieve benefits to water, pollinators, plants and other wildlife.