Putting Sustainability Into Practice

Almost twenty of our farming tenants took part in a soil management workshop at the Allerton Project, a Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust research farm in Loddington, earlier this month. Hosted by soil management experts at the Allerton Project and facilitated by the Duchy’s rural team, the workshops took the form of tutorials covering soil structure, chemistry and biology
as well as practical demonstrations of ways in which farmers can improve soil health and productivity.

Tenants from Cheshire, Lancashire, and Yorkshire were invited to attend the event which follows on from similar soil health workshops held in 2018 and 2019. Many tenants who attended the earlier events are already successfully employing the techniques and methodologies demonstrated at Loddington, improving the biodiversity, health and long-term fertility of their farmland.

Commenting on the event, Duchy Head of Rural Carol Hawkey said: “I am delighted with the response to the workshops. As a responsible landowner the Duchy has been actively encouraging farmers to consider new ways of managing, protecting and regenerating the soil across our rural estates. Many of our farming tenants have introduced cover cropping and moved away from traditional ploughing practices to direct drilling as a result of the practical experience shared at previous workshops.

“We have also provided assistance and support to those who have wanted to invest in new technologies to achieve this and have already seen clear examples of the ways in which more sustainable farming methodologies can make good commercial as well as environmental sense. We are keen to explore and share these examples of best practice with as many of our tenants as possible and the tenant workshops provide an excellent platform to do this.”

Of particular interest and benefit to those attending the workshops are a series of ‘trial plots’ at the research farm which demonstrate the impact of different autumn cultivation systems on arable crops. This allows for a side-by-side comparison of methodologies and a practical assessment of alternative options. As one of our long-standing farming tenants, Joe Green, said: “This was a very useful trip which has given us a far better understanding of soil health and the effect various farming techniques have on it. The team at Loddington explained the science in an engaging way and of course it is even better when you can then go out and see first-hand what they are achieving in the field. There’s no ‘one system fits all’ solution, but it has certainly given us all plenty to think about and a common goal to work towards.”

Feedback provided after the event will be used to inform future workshops for Duchy farming tenants. The long-term aim is to support farmers in the preparation of effective soil management strategies which will protect and preserve the natural environment and the rich biodiversity of the Duchy’s rural estates, while facilitating the sustainable productivity of the holdings for generations to come.