Better soil health is among the goals of a new initiative launched by agronomy experts Agrii. It improves the economic, environmental and social sustainability of UK farm businesses.
The Green Horizons five-point plan includes an advanced soil health assessment regime, a series of Net Zero Carbon demonstration farms, projects to reduce farm inputs, accredited environmental training and enterprise benchmarking.
Agrii head of technical Clare Bend said the initiative aimed to help meet the legion of challenges faced by farmers – including the diminishing number of crop protection products and growing legislative and environmental pressures.
Ms Bend said: “The only thing that seems to be stacking-up faster is the advice we’re getting from all sides on what we need to do – much of it based on a sadly-superficial understanding of the practicalities.
“We keep being told to improve soil health, for instance. Yet few, if any, of those telling us to do so understand the complex physical, chemical and biological interactions that contribute to a healthy soil, let alone how best to harness them.”
Farmers and agronomists were being urged to replace proven crop protection products with bio-solutions, said Ms Bend – despite research showing that the vast majority of biologicals on the market were simply not up to the job.
“We’re constantly being exhorted to do more for nature even though so many of the habitat creation options on offer have been found to be impractical, unaffordable or both,” she added.
Green Horizons would offer practical advice while exploring integrated strategies for maximising crop performance with progressively less reliance on traditional inputs. Agrii’s first five-year study to achieve this was already underway with winter wheat on a Cambridge LEAF Farm.
Ms Bend said: “Working with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and other research partners, we will soon be unveiling what we believe to be the first practical way of monitoring soil health improvement based on the best available understanding of the soil.”