09 March 2022
David puts nature-based farming to the test
POTATO grower David Means is among 10 English farmers taking part in a 12-month project implementing more regenerative, nature-based farming techniques to help meet net zero targets.
David, who runs a 165ha LEAF Marque certified business in West Norfolk, growing potatoes as well as cereals and sugar beet, has been developing plans to diversify his crop rotation and looking for new ways to reduce his carbon footprint.
He is one of 10 farmers from across England taking part in the project, which is led by global sustainable farming organisation, LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) and supported by The Linder Foundation.
All farmers involved in this project have seen improvements to their impact on the environment over the course of the year, which LEAF Technical Manager, Dr Dawn Teverson, said demonstrates how harnessing nature can bring tangible benefits in combatting the climate crisis.
David's case study is included in a booklet titled ‘Nature Based Solutions to Solutions to Climate Change: Farmer Case Studies’ which aims to inspire other farmers to start their own net-zero journey.
Dawn said: “With the UK farming industry setting an ambitious target for net zero agriculture by 2040, this project was all about giving farmers the tools, training, and expertise to reduce their carbon emissions, think about the future, how to adapt and innovate and build long-term economic, environmental and social sustainability.”
Some of the project's achievements have included:
• Increasing soil health and fertility through cover crops, no tillage and building up soil organic matter
• Enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem productivity through agroforestry, woodland management, pond creation and development of wildlife corridors
• Investing in new technologies to increase efficiencies
• Creating novel ways to support water resilience including rainwater harvesting and creation of ponds and reservoirs
• Measuring and monitoring carbon emissions.
Dawn continued: "As LEAF members, the farmers were already ahead of the game in terms of carrying out more climate-positive farming. This project helped them build on their expertise and confidence through a bespoke, deep-dive programme of technical support, one-to-one on-farm advice and peer-to-peer knowledge exchange opportunities.
The project, saw farmers use carbon measuring tools to help track emissions and sequestration, identify where efficiencies could be made and set targets for benchmarking and monitoring. These key baseline assessments allowed farmers to get a better understanding of their own impact on climate change to set objectives and develop their own action plans to drive continual progress. In addition, through collaboration with experts from science and industry, each of the farmers received bespoke advice on their own areas of particular interest including soil and water management, habitat creation, grassland management and cover cropping.