Conservation Farming

Farming with nature.

We farm in a manner known as conservation farming. This is a way of farming that concentrates on improving the soil and working with nature as much as possible. It is not organic, which although an admirable system, has rigid rules and lacks the flexibility to choose better ways where possible. We do use chemicals (and so does organic) but they are a minimum and only used where they are absolutely neccessary. The aim is to reduce the dependance on inputs by building up the soils resilience and structure to encourage beneficial bugs and animals to flourish.

One of the mainstays of our system is using 'notill' to establish the crops. Notill is exactly what it says, the seeds are down directly into the soil using a special drill disturbimg as little soil as possible. This may seem strange when we are used to seeing soils being ploughed and cultivated but if you think you never see nature ploughing and thats pretty successful.

If you consider a field that it is not disturbed by man the soil will eventually go into its natural state which is done by the action of plant roots, animals such as worms and beetles and the billions of bugs that inhabit every ounce of soil. Now if you want to plant the conventional way you first destroy that ecosystem by mechanical means and form your idea of a seed bed, not very helpful from the inhabitants point of view. In doing so you are also using an awful lot of diesel, metal and rubber but no chemicals. This is how an organic farmer must work. Now I can establish the crop just as well using a fraction of the fossil fuels using notill if I kill the proceeding crop with a spray. The soil is in much better condition after planting and much less fuel has been used but one spray. It's a balancing act and that is at the heart of conservation farming, we use on average 2.3 litres of diesel and acre planting notill whereas we used to use about 14 before and an awful lot more if you cost in the fuel used to make the extra metal and rubber used. Diesel fumes are the most dangerouse pollutant at the moment.

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