Monday, 23 December 2013
The 'School Farm' farm-scale demonstration catchment at Loddington is now well established as a focus for learning and discussing how our lowland landscape 'works'. We published a conference paper on some initial findings this month*. Within the landscape scale Water Friendly Farming project, we now have strong baseline data for the base of each of the three catchments, and for approximately 240 sampling sites across the 3,000ha study area. This must be an unprecedented dataset, covering nutrient and pesticide concentrations, aquatic invertebrates and plants, and fish, with some additional data for birds and pollinators. Two PhD projects are providing further data. We are also making good progress with putting in place various mitigation measures to improve water quality in the two 'treatment' catchments. Thanks to all the participating farmers for their support for this work.
The results of our own research at and around Loddington are at the heart of the numerous workshops and other events held in our eco-build visitor centre at Loddington. About 1,200 visitors, most of them farmers and farm advisors, as well as regulators, policy makers and students, have benefited from our research through such events in 2013.
Thanks to John Szczur, Jamie Partridge, and our students, interns and research partners for all their hard work during 2013. In 2014, we will continue to gather data that can guide both practice on individual farms, and policy at regional and national levels of governance. I will do my best to keep this blog updated with results as they emerge.
* Stoate, C & Szczur, J. 2013. An ecosystem services approach to productive land management in a farm-scale catchment. Rethinking Agricultural Systems in the UK. Aspects of Applied Biology 121: 35-42.
Thursday, 19 December 2013
Although the reasons for farmer's participation in agri-environment schemes have been well researched previously, we wanted to find out how farmers engaged with the process through time, in order to inform the development of the next phase of Stewardship schemes. Summarising the main findings of a PhD thesis in a single table is a sightly dangerous thing to do, but the table below provides brief descriptions of the career pathways that Susanne's research was able to identify. Career ‘stages’ represent points along the career in which changes are made, influenced by ‘contingencies’ that may be internal or external to the farm business. A summary of the research was published this week as a conference paper*.
Conservation for shooting (parallel career)
Conservation at the margins
Little or no additionality but a pathway for maintaining existing high conservation value areas
Additional conservation measures in return for payments
A pathway for realising conservation aspirations, whether very general or species based
Self-directed and funded, sometimes informed by previous involvement in Environmental Stewardship
Informed by this research, we have suggested that the following should be incorporated into the new Stewardship scheme in order to ensure optimum uptake, ownership and delivery in terms of conservation benefits:
- · Flexibility to enter schemes at different levels, recognising the different careers and stages at which farmers participate in Environmental Stewardship
- · A mechanism for the provision of consistent trusted advice that can be instrumental in developing farmers’ environmentally friendly farming careers
- · Recognition of Stewardship as a learning process on which farmers can build through progression to higher levels, or opt out to apply their knowledge and experience through self-directed careers
- · Synergies of the scheme structure and options with shoot management interests to exploit benefits of game management where there is evidence that these occur
- · The structure of the scheme should support contingencies to encourage farmers to move from Conservation at the Margin to Conservation Wage careers, and from Conservation Wage to Conservation Opportunity careers
- · Recognition of the importance of Conservation Opportunity careers in producing ‘leaders’ who are able to modify social norms and recruit neighbouring farmers, thereby delivering benefits at the landscape scale.
* Jarratt, S., Morris, C. & Stoate, C. (2013) The role of Environmental Stewardship in the development of farmers' environmental learning careers. Rethinking Agricultural Systems in the UK. Aspects of Applied Biology 121:
Saturday, 7 December 2013
|Great bustards in front of a lesser kestrel colony site in the Alentejo study area © C Stoate|
* Santana, J., Reino, R., Stoate, C., Borralho, R., Rio Carvalho, C., Schindler, S., Moreira, F., Bugalho, M., Flores Ribeiro, P., Lima Santos, J., Vaz, A., Morgado, R., Porto, M., Beja, P. Mixed effects of long-term conservation investment in Natura 2000 farmland. Conservation Letters. doi: 10.1111/conl.12077
Friday, 18 October 2013
type and nutrients within fields, how crop growth reflects soil moisture and temperature, and how stream flow and water quality are influenced by soil conditions.
|Soil map for one of the arable fields in the Water Friendly Farming project|
We have also mapped soil and nutrients across several fields in the Water Friendly Farming project catchments in the upper Eye Brook and Stonton Brook. These will provide participating farmers with information that will help inform their decisions on soil management and fertiliser applications. Understanding our soils is essential to improving our crop production, as well as to reducing our impact on water.
Friday, 26 July 2013
|Earthworm biomass, microbial biomass and organic carbon in arable, pasture and woodland soils in the School Farm catchment. I have converted the three measures to a common index in order to get them all on the same graph.|
Thursday, 4 July 2013
Our links with the University of Nottingham are particularly strong as it is one of the closest universities to us, and has an excellent Geography Department and agricultural campus at Sutton Bonington. For several years we have co-supervised PhD, MSc and undergrad students, delivered lectures on campus, and hosted field trips to Loddington and the nearby sites on which we work. Student projects have included a social science study of farmers' 'environmental learning careers' through their involvement in Stewardship schemes, a landscape scale bird community study, and an assessment of infiltration rates associated with different land uses. Topics covered in lectures include catchment management, land use and biodiversity, and West African agro-ecology.
It is a real privilege recently to have been made an Honorary Professor with the university and I look forward to building on our existing links to our mutual benefit.
Friday, 24 May 2013
|Total phosphorus concentrations in the upper Eye Brook, the end of the catchment, and three tributaries, includig one with a sewage treatment works (Means of 18 samples taken over 12 months).|
|Autumn Metaldehyde concentrations at the base of two catchments, and in field drains during rain.|
Friday, 19 April 2013
Friday, 22 March 2013
Jonathan Dimbleby, current affairs presenter, organic farmer and former president of the Soil Association and Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). “This book is a great example of the ‘Big Society’ in action. Skill, expertise, dedication and enthusiasm have brought together, in one small place, a host of very important issues that face the whole country.”
Jim Paice MP, former Government Farming Minister. “The Defra Business Plan recognises that the environment is the natural foundation on which our society and economy are built and that our long-term prosperity, economic success and quality of life are enhanced by our environment. As this book highlights, if we use and manage our natural assets in a sustainable way, they will continue to meet not only our needs, such as for energy, sustenance, minerals, fresh water, clean air and fertile soils, but the needs of future generations.”
Saturday, 9 March 2013
At the core of the activities in the Welland is our own Water Friendly Farming project in the headwater tributaries of the Eye Brook and Stonton Brook and our other research at and around Loddington. Water Friendly Farming builds on our previous work in the Eye Brook which combined our scientific knowledge of the agricultural environment with local knowledge in the catchment community to explore a whole range of issues associated with the management and use of natural resources. An account of the Eye Brook work was recently published as a journal paper which can be downloaded HERE. For those who don't have the time or inclination to delve into an academic paper, here are some under-pinning principles which can be adopted or adapted to local circumstances in other areas:
- Combining scientific research with local knowledge strengthens both knowledge communities to the benefit of all through an improved shared understanding of landscape scale issues and catchment processes.
- Identifying cultural as well as economic motivators for individuals and businesses is an important element of community engagement, both within and beyond the farming community, strengthening 'buy-in' from participants. Acknowledging and accepting differences in values and objectives within rural communities is essential to the development and implementation of management on the ground.
- Learning about land use history strengthens local identify and 'ownership' of agri-environmental problems and opportunities
- Recognition and acceptance of the interelationship between multiple objectives (e.g. food production, water quality improvement, climate change mitigation, flood management etc) should be central to catchment management policy and practice
- Identification and promotion of private benefits must be combined with consistent government support for activities that deliver public benefits
Monday, 4 February 2013
Sunday, 20 January 2013
The latest available figures reveal that sixteen HLS agreement holders have adopted the new supplementary feeding option to support farmland birds in the critical late winter period when other sources of food are in short supply. Some farmers are also adding this option to their ELS agreements. Given the very short time in which to apply back in December, this is very encouraging and is a classic example of research by the Allerton Project (and colleagues in BTO and RSPB) being translated into practical action on the ground.
The data that we have gathered at Loddington over many years suggest that winter feeding results in more than twice as many songbirds present during the second half of the winter. More importantly though, our results suggest that breeding bird numbers could also be up by 30%. More food in late winter means more birds, and better survival of those birds so that more are present in the following spring.
This encouraging prospect and the current snowy weather have combined to prompt me to dig out some data from several years ago when I first got interested in this issue and started catching yellowhammers through the winter to see how much fat they were carrying. Birds lay down more fat as the winter progresses - insurance against uncertainty associated with cold weather, shorter days, snow cover and depleted food reserves. In late winter, fat levels decline and birds become more vulnerable to starvation.