Kellogg’s Farmers Use Cover Crops to Improve Soil and Increase Crop Yields

http://www.farmingfutures.org.uk/blog/kelloggs-farmers-use-cover-crops-increase-yields-improve-soil-health-and-environment

Kellogg’s Farmers Use Cover Crops to Improve Soil and Increase Crop Yields.

16 September 2016.

In a study of 13 Kellogg’s farmers by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), farmers who used cover crops saw yield responses up by 10 per cent and a 50 per cent reduction in nitrogen leaching.

In more than 90 per cent of farms the number of worms increased.  As a result more than three quarters of Kellogg’s Origins farmers farms that used cover crops reached their worm target – compared to half for those that didn’t.

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Cover cropping refers to the plants covering the soil on farmland between the harvest and sowing the next set of crops – it helps to prevent soil erosion, improve soil structure, increase organic matter and suppress weeds and pests.

The results of the study have been condensed into a ‘Cover Crop Cook Book’, which gives guidance on agronomy to farmers and offers a range of practical approaches to cover cropping. The book has been shared with 3,000 farmers and experts throughout the UK in the hope they’ll take up cover cropping and share their knowledge to develop best practice.

Ann Noble, Kellogg’s sustainability manager, said: “This study arose from engagement with our Kellogg’s Origins farmers. At Kellogg’s, we want to ensure the sustainability of our farmers’ crops with better quality grains and healthy soils. “One of the key areas we’re looking at is the use of cover crops, which is not only a great way of improving soil structure and supporting biodiversity but also – according to this ground breaking study – yield a business benefit too.

Ron Stobart, NIAB’s head of Farming Systems Research, said: “If you travelled 100 years back in time, most farmers would have known about cover cropping, but for so long now the answer has come in a bag, with artificial fertilizers.  Now resources are scarcer, and companies like Kellogg’s are leading the way in integrating the best sustainable practices with modern commercial production.  There’s a great deal of interest among the farming community in managing soil resources, and with this study we’ve brought some science on what was a bit of a grey area to get some answers on the benefits of cover cropping.  It’s given Kellogg’s growers confidence, achieved great buy-in, and we’re happy to share that knowledge in the Cover Crop Cook Book.”

For a copy of the ‘cover crop cookbook’ please contact Kellogg’s press office on 0161 869 5500 or email pressoffice@kellogg.com

From a Kelloggs News release.

 

Otters Catching Too Many Fish?

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Now that Otters have re-established themselves following decades of habitat pollution and destruction, sections of the fishing community are claiming that they are now ‘eating all the fish.’

Recent studies have shown however, that for instance during the summer, the percentage of fish in the otters diet is about 31% rising to about 68% during the winter.  During the summer months, 70% of fish eaten were of the non-fishing specie, the common Bullhead.

Trees – Historically, Disease and Their Future

A research project being carried out by the University of East Anglia has been studying the arboreal history of a sample of four English counties.  The first lesson learnt is that the three major tree species were oak, Ash and elm.  The second is that the dominance of these together with the less frequent species such as Beech, Cherry, limes, Hornbeam, Field Maple and Scots Pine are very likely due to human choice which in turn was based on practical and economic considerations at the time.  It has also discovered that rural tree population were up until the mid-19th century, much more vigorously managed with much pollarding and coppicing being carried out and with timber trees likely to have been felled at an earlier age.  It is considered that these practices may all have contributed to an overall healthier tree population.

Last of the elms of 'Alfriston's Cathedral Walk,' 2012.

Last of the elms of ‘Alfriston’s Cathedral Walk,’ 2012.

During the last half century, this status quo has and is likely to continue to be adversely affected: modern intensive farm management; apart from within urban sanctuaries we have lost the elm as a tree; Ash is now under considerable attack from a recently arrived fungus and there are doubts about our oaks and disease.  Waterside Alder has now been under fungal attack for some decades as is Horse Chestnut being plundered by a micro moth ‘breaking-out’ from Macedonia.  Currently knocking at the UK’s door are: the Emerald Ash Borer, Sweet Chestnut blight, various conifer diseases and a suite of ‘alien’ insect pests.

If that were not enough, we still have our home grown tree diseases such as fungal plunderers and various blights.  There is also the ‘elephant in the room’ – climate change; this could impose major changes on our beautiful tree populations.  There have calls by some that we should be proactive and start planting more continental species – walnut and perhaps, Downy Oak to ‘bolster’ our two native oaks.  Challenging times indeed for our woody neighbours…

Sweet Chestnut attacked by root rot fungus along ghyll valley, Ashdown Forest SSSI.

Sweet Chestnut attacked by root rot fungus along ghyll valley, Ashdown Forest SSSI.

 

 

Scientists Begin to Unravel Summer Weather/Jet Stream Mystery

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160824084643.htm

Scientists have discovered the cause of the recent run of miserable wet summers as they begin to unravel the mysteries of the Atlantic jet stream.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield and The Met Office have identified a number of possible factors that may influence the Atlantic jet stream and therefore help to predict summer climate from one year to the next.

The summer weather in the UK and northwest Europe is influenced by the position and strength of the Atlantic jet stream — a ribbon of very strong winds which are caused by the temperature difference between tropical and polar air masses.

A northward shift in the Atlantic jet stream tends to direct low-pressure systems northwards and away from the UK, leading to warm and dry weather during summer.

But, if the summer jet slips southwards it can lead to the jet shifting the low-pressure systems directly over the UK, causing miserable weather like we experienced in the first half of this summer. The big question is “why does the jet stream shift?”

The report, led by PhD student Richard Hall and Professor Edward Hanna from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography, discovered that up to 35 per cent of this variability may be predictable — a significant advance which may help in the development of seasonal forecasting models.

Lead author of the study, Richard Hall, said: “There is nothing people in the UK like to discuss more than the weather. This is because it can fluctuate so drastically — we can be basking in high temperatures and sunshine one week only to be struck by heavy downpours and strong winds the next.

“Our study will help forecasters to predict further into the future giving a clearer picture of the weather to come.”

The findings suggest the latitude of the Atlantic jet stream in summer is influenced by several factors including sea surface temperatures, solar variability, and the extent of Arctic sea-ice, indicating a potential long-term memory and predictability in the climate system.

Edward Hanna, Professor of Climate Change at the University of Sheffield, said: “Working with The Met Office we were able to look at the different factors which may influence the jet stream, which paves the way for improvements in long-term forecasting.”

Professor Adam Scaife, Head of long range forecasting at the Met Office, said: “We’ve made big inroads into long-range forecasts for winter, but we are still limited to shorter-range weather forecasts in summer. Studies like this help to identify ways to break into the long-range summer forecast problem.”

The study, published in the journal Climate Dynamics was funded by the University of Sheffield’s Project Sunshine now the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, and was conducted in collaboration with the University’s School of Mathematics and Statistics (SOMAS).

 

A Criticism of Knepp Estate’s Rewilding – My Rebuke

Following a very critical letter in the British Wildlife journal from Sussex campaigner Dave Bangs, below is my response to BW on his views on Knepp, conservation funding, estates in general, land use and ownership:

I would like to respond to Sussex campaigner Dave Bangs letter (BW 27: 455) in response to Peter Marren’s inspiring article concerning rewilding on the Knepp Estate in West Sussex (BW27: 333-339).

Firstly, the comment DB makes about ecologists lecturing on behalf of wealthy estates and concurrently the loss of posts in public-sector conservation bodies are not directly connected.  The withdrawal of Government monies from these bodies (and the NHS), is part of a much wider debate concerning this country living within its means and poorly considered political decisions made by the previous Government.  Maybe the odd conservation body should reconsider how they spend their budget?

Sadly, the rosy days of funding for wildlife and conservation during the 1990’s now seem far behind…  I feel quite angry when I see decades of my own work unravelling before my eyes!  Chalk grassland ungrazed; rights of way now largely un-maintained; the loss of tens of thousands of elm trees – a speciality here in East Sussex.  Then there is the neutering Natural England…

He argues that this and other lands should not be favoured with public monies.  I feel that strategically placed, relatively modest-scale projects such as Knepp should be encouraged in the hope that they will provide oases for the more mobile wildlife species (and people).  The small percentage of land involved in such schemes is on a world-scale, not worth even contemplating.  I would be the first to agree that the current agri-environment scheme is not ideal but I disagree with DB’s left-wing, politically-tinged assault on the amazing work being carried out at Knepp.  Also in Knepp’s defence, it does produce a quantity of excellent meat.  As DB states, it is part of the somewhat “more resistant farmlands of the Weald,” land that often requires a great deal of effort, inputs and capital, to make a living from within these difficult times.  Sadly, global food prices are a part of today’s modern world – farmers cannot exist within their own little economic bubbles.

The statement concerning Eastbourne Borough Council’s decision to “sell its iconic and wildlife-rich downland estate around Beachy Head” smells a little of red herrings.  Admittedly not a decision I am happy with but the selling of four mainly ‘grassed-down’ arable farms (this sale being made incidentally with no public consultation input), does however, not include the “iconic” coastal chalk grasslands.  The other estate referred to is presumably the Rathfinney Estate vinyard near Alfriston, which one has to say is a great improvement on the rolling, sterile acres of cereals that were its former use.  Additionally, this Estate has made efforts to conserve scrubby, previously long un-grazed chalk downland and to encouraging wildlife elsewhere within its landholding.

I feel that sustainable food production should be concentrated on the good productive lands that (currently) have little wildlife interest, but, with a modest amount of tweaking based on work such as carried out at the RSPB’s Hope Farm.  The current rewards for ‘lip-service’ to the current agri-environment scheme,  that is often the case at the moment must be ended.  Let us hope that post Brexit, we will gain a far more wildlife-friendly agri-environment scheme, fair to our wonderful landscapes, fair to farmers and sustainable – but I for one, will not be holding my breath for that!

Monty Larkin.  (Has worked for the Sussex landscape and its wildlife for 40 years.  Founder and until recently Grazing Co-ordinator of the Sussex Pony Grazing & Conservation Trust.  Visit www.sussexponygrazing.co.uk)