117 people joined the third event in the EIT Food ‘Focus on Farmers’ Virtual Farm Walk and Discussion series held on 7th September.
The theme for the third episode was ‘Improving Soil Health and the use of Multi Species Swards’, featuring guest speakers Martin Lukac and David Humphries from Reading University alongside farmer ambassadors James Evans and Sam Chesney. A recording of the event is available via the AgriSearch website and YouTube channel.
Shropshire farmer James Evans opened the meeting by detailing the importance of obtaining good soil health on his organic farm without the use of fertilisers. He highlighted the need to improve soil biology and explained how implementing grazing strategies, such as mob grazing cattle, has helped to improve soil quality on his farm and reduced the use of machinery on the land.
Following this, Professor Martin Lukac from Reading University delivered an insightful presentation on soil health, aiming to answer the question ‘what is soil health?’. Martin shared the various indicators of good soil health and detailed how plant diversity can improve soil conditions.
This led to Sam Chesney’s feature on the use of multi species swards and how he maintains good soil health through regular soil analysis on his beef farm in County Down. Sam described the herb and legume species he has introduced into his sward and described their properties, in particular the deep rooting qualities and how they are beneficial in drought conditions.
The results to date of the Diverse Forages Project, currently being carried out by Reading University and partners, were then presented by David Humphries. The positives and negatives encountered with multispecies swards in the project were highlighted with comparisons to a more traditional ryegrass mixture made.
Following some questions from participants, Professor Nigel Scollan from Queen’s University concluded the event with some take home messages and thanks to speakers, as well as introducing the date for the next event on Monday 21st September which will focus on accelerating our journey to net zero carbon beef production. Dr John Gilliland, Agriculture Director at Devenish will be the special guest speaker. To register for this next event, please follow the link to Zoom.
The recording of the third instalment in the EIT Food 'Focus on Farmers' series is available to view here.