THRIPLOW FARMS, THRIPLOW FARMS LTD, CAMBRIDGESHIRE
HAVING completed a Nuffield Scholarship on ‘improving yields and profits through improving soil’, David Walston has taken numerous measures to promote soil longevity via an integrated farm approach.
With an improved understanding of the benefit of soil organisms, he has switched from min-till cultivation to no-till cultivation to protect soil beneficials and boost soil organic matter levels.
On his lighter land, crops previously yielded 20-30 per cent less due to drought. However, direct drilling has helped retain soil moisture during crop establishment. To increase viability of a no-till approach, David has reduced machinery sizes and adopted a controlled traffic system to limit compaction.
He trials with cover cropping and companion cropping extensively
on-farm to improve soil properties and save on fertiliser inputs, increasing the long-term sustainability of his business.
Cover crops are let to a sheep farmer in the autumn for grazing, which generates further income and helps manage the cover crop canopy.
To improve soil biodiversity and suppress weeds, David is experimenting with sowing lucerne alongside oilseed rape. This will increase the amount of soil nitrogen available to the following wheat crop.
Recognising the value of pasture in increasing biodiversity and improving soil health, he incorporates grass leys into his arable rotation. Fields which have been in-grass have seen elevated levels of soil organic matter levels.
Since he has no livestock himself, grass is rented and mob-grazed by cattle, which allows David to reap the benefits associated with livestock, without detracting from his main arable enterprise.