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LEAF News and Views

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News and opinion on topical issues at the LEAF Innovation Centre

Results-based payment for delivering environmental benefit

A major discussion point at the 18 May meeting 'Farmers and nature: Promoting success and looking forward' (report lower down this page) was a scheme being piloted in parts of Europe on Results-based agri-environment payment. As described by Kirsten Brewster (SNH) and Teyl de Bordes (Whitmuir Estate) in a downloadable PDF, 'Results-based' is a term used to refer to agri-environment type schemes where farmers and land managers are paid for delivering an agri-environment result or outcome, e.g. number of breeding birds, or number of plant species in grasslands', etc. The managers have the flexibility to choose the method by which they achieve the result. The PDF gives examples from The Netherlands, Romania, Austria, Sweden, Ireland and the UK (Yorkshire Dales). Results-based approaches seem to us a logical and justifiable means of achieving environmental benefits in farmland. Quantifiable targets can be set in terms of limits in which populations and ecological processes might fluctuate sustainably. The approach is broadly consistent with the recommendations of the Scottish Government's CAP Greening Group 2017 (link lower down this page). Hutton-LEAF will be expanding on Results-based approaches elsewhere on this site. Downloadable PDF: Results Based Agri-environment Payment Scheme (RBAPS) pilots by K Brewster and T de Bordes. Contact: Kirs...@snh.gov.uk.

Open Farm Sunday at Glensaugh - 10 June 2018 

Time: 1100 to 1600 (11 am to 4 pm)

This year - as part of the James Hutton Institute’s role as a LEAF Innovation Centre - Open Farm Sunday will take place at Glensaugh http://www.hutton.ac.uk/about/facilities/glensaugh rather than at the usual venue (Mylnefield Farm near Dundee). The location of 

Glensaugh will give us the opportunity to demonstrate the excellent work being carried out in this upland setting. For information on the general event UK-wide, see https://farmsunday.org/

Glensaugh Farm will be putting on a range of displays and farm tours, 'meet the sheep' and also the cows and deer, but as at Dundee, the practical aspects of farming will be complemented by science exhibits held by Hutton staff. The day's events and  exhibits are developed in close consultation between the farm managers, the communications unit and science contacts. The poster left is downloadable as: Open Farm Sunday 2018 Glensaugh PDF 566 kb.

Contacts: Head of Farms, Field and Glasshouse: euan...@hutton.ac.uk. Farm Manager, Glensaugh: dona...@hutton.ac.uk. Communications Unit: pam....@hutton.ac.uk, Science programme: geof...@hutton.ac.uk.

Farmers and Nature: promoting success and looking forward

At this meeting, five farmers and crofters gave their own accounts, in 15 minutes each, of how they worked to combine agricultural production and nature. The five speakers managed five very different tracts of land, each with commitment and vision. They were David Aglen of Balbirnie Estate, Bryce Cunningham of Mossgiel Farm, Lynn Cassels of Lynbreck Croft, Roger Polson of Knock Farm and Teyl de Bordes of Whitmuir Estate. Running through these disparate experiences was a total acceptance that continually farming against nature won’t succeed, and that much farming continues to be at the mercy of long commodity supply chains that must be disrupted if farmers and crofters are to have their fair share of control and profit and connect more directly with consumers. There was innovation here, enterprise and the audacity to challenge. Inspirational! The day was organised by Scottish Natural Heritage at Battleby Conference Centre, just north of Perth on 18 May 2018. [Geoff Squire attended.]

Crop diversification is essential for sustainable cropland

In parallel to work in the Living Field project, also based at the Hutton institute, this Hutton-LEAF web site will be examining a range of issues around the current status of our lowland arable-grass agriculture and the possibities for diversification. Since the mid-1800s, the areas covered by the broad categories of 'permanent' grass, temporary or rotational grass and arable land have changed little, but the range and balance of crops grown in the arable has decreased. In particular, 'roots' such as turnips, swedes and potato and legumes such as peas, beans and vetches have both declined compared to the main cereal of the day. Together with intensification in the use of fertiliser and pesticide, the changes in crop diversity have compromised the ecological integrity of much farmland. Re-diversification is a remedial option being explored through the Hutton farms and science.

A series of articles published under LEAF Comment on this site will explore the current status and options for re-diversification, concentrating on: historical trends leading to the present state of the managed arable-grass; the contribution of different crops and practices in directing energy and matter (carbon, nutrients) to different parts of the system, including offtake, soil and food webs; and options for re-diversification. Among the latter being examined are 1) increasing the number of different crops grown in the region, 2) raising complexity within fields, as in crop varietal and species mixtures (such as mashlum), 3) using rotation and other temporal sequencing to use resource more efficienctly, and 4) manipulating landscape structures to enhance area-wide processes such as natural pest control, erosion, pollution, water management and biodiversity.

The Living Field's notes and activities can be found at www.livingfield.co.uk/crop/crop-diversification. The collage to the right shows crops grown in recent years in the Living Field garden near Dundee: a full size image is viable at the link. 

Future of agriculture in the Highlands and Islands after Brexit

Farming in the regions of the Highlands and Islands is under pressure now from a range of factors, including low productivity due to soil and climate, distance from markets, and declining technical infrastructure (e.g. veterinary services). Brexit may bring further pressures, one consequence of which could be abandonment of farmland and farming.The current status of the region and potential scenarios after Brexit were presented at a meeting in Edinburgh on 14 May 2018, organised by the Highlands and Islands Agricultural Support Group (see link below). One of the main issues to be understood in determining any post-Brexit support mechanism is that farming in the Highlands and Islands does far more than provide food and related products. Farming here is essential to the provision of a wide range of Ecosystem Services including regulation of water and nutrients flows, conservation of biodiversity/habitat and continuation of the diverse and unique cultural landscapes created over the past few thousand years. A report prepared for the meeting provides much of the basic information needed for action on these issues.

However, a major factor that needs far greater profile is the disconnection between the much trumpeted successes of Scotland's Food and Drink and the far more limited income and opportunities for the people and land that produce food in this region. The solution is not to tinker around the edges of the problem. Major change is needed, specially to reconnect food quality chains, to pay fairly for ecosystem services from the public purse and to integrate of all forms of land use, i.e. not treat agriculture in isolation. Geoff Squire attended on behalf of Hutton-LEAF. 

Publication: Post-Brexit implications for agriculture & associated land use in the Highlands and Islands. Report of the Highlands and Islands Agricultural Support Group by A. Moxey & S. Thomson. Download from the SRUC website at: scruc.ac.uk/HIASGreport.

Profile of Legumes raised at EU TRUE first annual meeting

The EU TRUE project Transition paths to sustainable legume based systems in Europe held its first annual meeting in Athens during the week beginning 16 April 2018. TRUE is a large multi-partner project coordinated by the Institute. It takes as its starting points the great positive value of legumes (pulses) to environment and health contrasted with the very low acreages of legumes grown in most of Europe. It's not that Europe does not use legumes - it relies on them for food and animal feed, but imports all but a few percent of them. Legume pulses and forages are 'on the up' and TRUE is playing its part in their revival. Legumes fix their own nitrogen and so cropping systems that include them need less mineral nitrogen and hence cause less pollution.

The meeting brought together all the main partners in TRUE, agreed major combined efforts for the next three years and set out plans for dissemination to industry, policy and the public. Representing the Hutton were Pete Iannetta (Project Coordinator), Fanny Tran (Project Manager), Mark Young, Euan James, Marta Maluk and Geoff Squire (who presented a short talk on the relevance of sustainable development goals and indicators). A series of meetings and discussion were followed by a field trip to see work with some pulse landraces. 

Contacts: pete...@hutton.ac.uk and fann...@hutton.ac.uk for the TRUE project; geof...@hutton.ac.uk for legume contributions to ecological sustainability. See also the Hutton news item: Pulses, sustainable superfoods that can contribute to global food security

IPM Stakeholder Group

A Stakeholder group is being developed jointly by the IPM Centre http://ipm.hutton.ac.uk and the Centre for Sustainable Cropping http://csc.hutton.ac.uk. Members will represent a range of farming and commercial interests, policy, NGOs and LEAF itself. The aim of the group will include providing industry and policy perspectives to the work, help communicate IPM strategies and horizon-scan for future IPM imperatives. More to follow.

Open Farm Sunday at Glensaugh 10 June 2018

This year - as part of the James Hutton Institute’s role as a LEAF Innovation Centre - Open Farm Sunday will take place at Glensaugh http://www.hutton.ac.uk/about/facilities/glensaugh rather than at the usual venue (Mylnefield Farm near Dundee). The location of Glensaugh will give us the opportunity to demonstrate the excellent work being carried out in this upland setting. For information on the general event UK-wide, see https://farmsunday.org/. The Hutton LEAF web pages are at http://www.hutton.ac.uk/learning/leaf.

Glensaugh Farm itself will be putting on a range of displays and farm tours, but as at Dundee, the practical aspects of farming will be complemented by a series of science exhibits held by Hutton staff. Recent Open Farm Sundays at Dundee have been well supported by the science staff and we usually have volunteers for typically 10 to 12 exhibits. The science and farm exhibits are developed in close consultation with the farm managers and the communications unit.  

Role of LEAF in the CAP Greening Group, Scottish Government 2017

A group of people with interests in farming, food and the environment were collectively commissioned by the Scottish Government to review the current state of CAP Greening measures and to explore options for the future. Among group members were Geoff Squire (LEAF Innovation Centre, Hutton) and Caroline Drummond (LEAF Chief Executive). The consensus of the group, also widely held in Europe, is that the current Greening measures do not work, such that some radical change is needed. After several meetings in 2017, the findings were published by Scottish Government in December 2017. The summary report can be viewed and downloaded at CAP Greening Group – Discussion Paper.

Before the CAP Greening Group began its work in 2017, the James Hutton Institute had been commissioned to carry out a comprehensive study of the state of agriculture and potential role of current Greening measures. A large part of the work involved a major exercise in mapping current and potential benefits of Greening based on data from the EU’s Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS). This major report was published in 2017: for links to the multi-part documentation, see CAP Greening Review on the SG web site; the section on mapping is Part 3 – Maps by Dave Miller, Doug Wardell-Johnson and Keith Matthews. Geoff Squire and Cathy Hawes contributed a chapter on benefits and limitations of proposed Greening measures to the agro-ecosystem.   

Euan Caldwell's experience at LEAF IFM Conference 2017

Euan writes: "The LEAF Summer Conference was a mix of practical presentations from LEAF Demonstration Farmers and more science based presentations from the LEAF Innovation Centres.

The event kicked off on Wednesday (24th May) at Stockbridge Technology Centre (LEAF Innovation Centre), looking at modern technology, including an LED facility with multi-tiered benching to look at lighting regimes for a range of crops. We also saw modern laboratories and culture rooms, enabling indigenous pests and diseases to be produced for controlled release into efficiency trials. From here we visited JSR farms Ltd., a 4,100 hectare farm, all within a 20 mile radius of the home farm, Southburn. JSR farms is one of the largest family owned farms in the UK. LEAF Demonstration Farmer Philip Huxtable hosted the farm tour, providing an insight into their intensive arable operation and introduced their well-established work on pig genetics.

We enjoyed an evening meal at The Star Inn, in York, where we had an informal and engaging presentation on “soil biology and plant soil interaction” from Duncan Cameron from Sheffield University. The following morning we all travelled to FERA Science Ltd (National Agri-Food Innovation Campus, York)

There was a total of nine speakers incorporating a mixture of research and commercial farming talks which focused on new technologies and what can add value to  Integrated farm Management (IFM) practices of the future. LEAF Demonstration Farmers talked about how technology had helped their businesses and their IFM practices while LEAF Innovation Centre representatives talked about new research techniques and how future technology may be implemented at a practical farming level. 

My presentation gave an overview of the James Hutton Institute, followed by an introduction to the Institute's Farms and Glasshouse facilities. I went on to talk about how we have embraced GPS auto steer technology, how we have help developed it to suit our unique requirements of not only accurate auto steer but using the same technology to place the seed in the ground to give very accurate field trials “precision agriculture at its best”. I followed this with an insight into how we have used technology on our livestock farms… the agribot at Hartwood Home Farm, the Sheep ID system at Glensaugh and how it’s used as a research tool, but also to help improve the genetics of our hefted blackface sheep flock. The project that captured the attention and imagination of the audience was the imaging trial. This is a fantastic research tool at present, helping to evaluate plant health, but could in the future be simplified and used as a tool in the commercial sector. I finished my presentation with an insight into our “magic  margins” project, a practical solution to well-known and ongoing problem."

Farewell Anthony Goggin

In its September 2017 eBrief, LEAF writes "A very fond farewell to Anthony Goggin, our LEAF Marque Certification and Assurance Manager, who, after eight years at LEAF, is leaving us to pursue a master’s degree in International Development at the University of East Anglia.  Anthony has been instrumental in supporting the development of LEAF Marque, particularly overseas as part of the FRICH project, as well as playing a pivotal role in LEAF’s full membership of ISEAL. We wish Anthony well with his future studies and thank him for all he has contributed to LEAF." During his time at LEAF, Anthony was very supportive of JHI's Innovation centre (writes Geoff Squire) and unfailingly helpful on various LEAF topics - we wish him well.

2017 LEAF Integrated Farm Management Conference

Join us for a one-day conference exploring the role of technology in developing the current and future potential of Integrated Farm Management

When: 9.30am to 4.30pm, Thursday 25th May 2017
Where: Fera Science Ltd (Fera), National Agri-Food Innovation Campus, Sand Hutton, York, YO41 1LZ
Cost: £75 incl VAT. LEAF members receive a discounted rate of £50 incl VAT

Euan Caldwell, Hutton Head of Farms will be speaking at the Conference

This year’s IFM conference will draw on the research and demonstration activities of the LEAF Network to assess the current role technology plays in Integrated Farm Management, and look ahead to what new technology will offer IFM in the future. The precision, accuracy and marginal gains offered by many new techniques and promised by upcoming research, will be critical when continually evaluating and improving IFM as a whole farm level approach. Researchers from our Innovation Centers will highlight some of the latest advances in technology and LEAF Demonstration Farmers will set out how this technology translates at a practical farming level. Attendees can expect to learn more about current priorities and developing trends around IFM research and gain a better understanding of how this is shaping the future potential of IFM to address current sustainability challenges.

Speakers include the following from LEAF Demonstration Farms and LEAF Innovation Centres.

  • Euan Caldwell: Head of Farms, James Hutton Institute
  • Dr Laura Cardenas: Senior Research Scientist, Rothamsted Research North Wyke
  • Andrew Ferguson: Farming Manager, Leckford Estate,
  • Andrew Francis: Senior Farms Manager, Elveden Estate,
  • Paul Hayward:  Cold Harbour Farm
  • Alice Johnston:  Applications and Stewardship Coordinator, Bayer CropScience UK
  • Dr Alastair Leake: Head of Project, The Allerton Project
  • Prof. Mark Rutter: Professor of Applied Animal Behaviour, Harper Adams University
  • Dr Prysor Williams: Senior Lecturer in Environmental Management, Bangor University

The cost of the conference is £75, if you are a LEAF member, we are offering a discounted rate of £50. For more details and to register to attend please email events@leafuk.org.

Round up of some LEAF national events 2016-2017

  • Winter LEAF Network Event for Demonstration Farms and Innovation Centres, held on 13/14 Devember 2017, Great Wollaston Shropshire, examined  a range of external and internal  challenges including extreme weather and Brexit. Information here (PDF file) and see if you can spot Euan Caldwel on the banner image.
  • Get learning with LEAF and Artis - through training courses to help farmers achieve best preactice around soil and water managament. Information on Artis here.
  • LEAF Marque potatoes on Waitrose advertising campaign. View it on YouTube. The JHI is LEAF Marque certified for potatoes.
  • Intercropping workshop at Overbury Village Hall, Tewksbury, discussing the varied benefits of growing more than one crop throughout a field: presentations from Alice Midmer (LEAF) and Jake Freestone. Updates on the JHI-led Diversify project to follow. Information here.
  • Feeding fertile minds: engaging teenagers with farming, food and the environment. LEAF's education and public engagement conference was held on 20 September 2017, at The Auditorium, Sainsburys, London. Featuring a wide range of speakers from farming, education, research, retail, and social media. Information here.
  • Improving soil biology for better yield, a course by Artis in association with LEAF, 18 January 2017, a farm in the East Riding of Yorkshire. For details: Artis Training
  • LEAF's Annual Conference "Debating Natural Capital" was held on 9 November 2016, postscript at www.leafuk.org/leaf/home/leaf25/LEAF_Conference_2016.eb and youtube video.
  • Revised LEAF Marque Standard v14.0 was published 1 October 2016 and will come into practice on 1 January 2017.

Native seed for regeneration and restoration (NASSTEC)

Whether for aiding and regenerating failing vegetation, re-introducing lost biodiversity to farmland or giving a natural lift to drear urban  landscapes, the use of native, as opposed to introduced seed, is increasing globally. One of the challenges is that the very seed needed fo the job is itself often rare and seldom available in quantity. This is where the EU NASSTEC project comes in. NASSTEC is an EU-funded Initial Training Network that supports and mentors 11 doctoral students working on seed sampling and characterisation, seed biology (e.g. germination) and production and certification for market. The 3rd annual project meeting was held 31 January to 3 February 2017 in Cordoba, Spain, attended by Pete Iannetta (Hutton lead), Geoff Squire and a student based at the Hutton, Erica Dello Jacovo. In addition to learning of the progress made by the students, the meeting heard about restoration projects in olive groves, vine fields, upland grazed pasture and urban roadsides and roundabouts. Thanks to colleagues at Semillas Silvestres, a native seed company near Cordoba, for hosting the meeting.

Further information at Native Seed Science Technology and Conservation Initial Training Network and €3 million project underway to enhance wild plant seed industries.

More acclaim for Magic Margins

In addition to the RSPB Nature of Scotland Award presented earlier in the year, the farm's Magic Margins gained recognition at the 2016 Perthshire Chamber of Commerce Awards held on 25 November 2016. Euan Caldwell accepted the Stagecoach Contribution to Sustainability Award for the innovation which 'is now integrated into the Institute's farming system as part of its LEAF principles'. See Hutton Innovation and Excellence recognised at 2016 Perthshire Chamber of Commerce Awards.

Additional benefits of furrowed margins was realised through a student project carried out on the farm. Vegetation will arise naturally on the margins, emerging from the soil seedbank, but to prevent  noxious weeds taking over, they can be sown with a grass and wild flower mix. The project showed that patches of mixed broadleaf vegetation in margins support twice as many insects as both the barley crop and patches only of grass species - see Beneficial insects in furrowed field margins in LEAF-related research. Notably, natural biocontrol organisms, in the form of parasitic wasps that lay eggs in crop pests, were more populous in the margins (waiting to feed on the aphids next door).

New uses for legumes and pulses

One of the issues preventing the greater use of nitrogen-fixing legume crops is the limited market for peas, beans and other home-grown pulses. However, research at the Hutton led by Pete Iannetta of the Agroecology group is finding a commercial market for new high-value pulse products. The beans4feeds project (see entry lower down this page) is producing new fish feeds from beans. More for human consumption is bean beer and bean bread. The bean beer, jointly brewed up through a studentship at Abertay University (Kirsty Black), the Hutton and Barney's Beer, has been taken to market as Tundra IPA (named after its constituent bean variety). 

The Hutton's work on these new pulse products was recently recognised in the 2016 Perthshire Chamber of Commerce Awards held on 25 November 2016, at which, on behalf of the Institute, Pete Iannetta accepted the Blackadders Excellence in Business Innovation Award: Hutton Innovation and Excellence recognised at 2016 Perthshire Chamber of Commerce Awards.

More ..... about the bean ale Tundra IPA on the Hutton News pages at Feed the world, help the environment and make great beer and in this Scotsman article; and see out work on outreach and meet-the-people at Feel the pulse.

LEAF Marque revised standard

The Hutton contributed to a consultation on The LEAF Marque Standard version 14.0 held in June and July 2016. "LEAF Marque is an environmental assurance system recognising sustainably farmed products. The LEAF Marque Standard is based on LEAF's Integrated Farm Management principles and sets out the requirements for LEAF Marque certification." In response to LEAF's Anthony Goggin, Geoff Squire commented on general aspects of the Standard then in more detail on specific technical aspects including nutrients and water management. The new Standard will be published on 1 October 2016 and will be translated into French, Spanish and Italian. It will come into operation in January 2017.

The James Hutton institute was successfuly audited on 8 March 2016 as a LEAF Marque producer of potato. Very stringent requirements are needed to fufill the LEAF Marque methods and practice. At the same time, the farm completed the Red Tractor Fresh Produce audit, the Safe Haven audit for potato seed production and the Scottish Quality Cereals audit. Congratulations to Euan and the team - leading by example!

Magic margins win Innovation Award at RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards

The James Hutton Institute’s Farm, Field & Glasshouse team won the Innovation Award at the RSPB Nature of Scotland 2016 Awards prizegiving ceremony, held at the Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh with more than 200 guests in attendance. The Innovation award is presented to the most innovative project, initiative, practice, or technique that has aided nature conservation.

The margins comprise a series of furrows running along one or more margins of a field. They are created with a potato drill plough and tied ridging machine. Their purpose is to reduce the movement of water, carrying soil particles, nutrients and organic matter, out of the field during heavy rain. They also (as Euan Caldwell says) discourage drivers and hare coursing. 

See more on the News pages of the main Hutton web site at Magic margins ..., at RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards and at LEAF's Blog.

Integrated Farm Management Bulletin Issue 9 Animal Husbandry

These Bulletins are for LEAF members only. Issue 9, released by LEAF in October 2016, included downloadable PDFs on the following:

  • 'Breeding for Improved Economic Efficiency' by Richard Fuller, JSR Farming, a LEAF Demonstration Farm in Yorkshire;
  • 'Fighting Campylobacter in the UK Chicken Industry' by Dr Lynn McIntyre of Harper Adams University, a LEAF Innovation Centre;
  • 'Livestock Sensors: Innovative Applications' based on a workshop at Bangor University, a LEAF Innovation Centre
  • and a note on New Resources in the LEAF Information Centre which houses all LEAF's technical literature.

Information on joining LEAF can be found at @leafuk.org.

Potato study in AMIGA - at LEAF Technical Day 9 June 2016

AMIGA is a multi-disciplinary EU project on the environmental risk assessment of GM crops.  It comprises 22 partners in 15 countries and ran for 4.5 years ending May 2016.

The main purpose of AMIGA is to test and improve the European Food Safety Authority’s current Environmental Risk Assessment Guidelines through measuring and analysing GM crops and their associated biodiversity in the field. Results on blight-tolerant potato are discussed at the Technical Day on 9 June at Balruddery Farm near Dundee.

The GM potato is a variety having a blight-resistant gene (vnt1) taken from the wild Solanum venturii and inserted into the Solanum tuberosum variety Desiree. It is therefore termed cis-genic – in this case, a gene from one Solanum species transferred to another. It was developed at the University of Wageningen, The Netherlands. Preliminary results: trials in 2013, 2014 and 2015 showed strong performance of the cis-genic line in disease resistance. The environmental studies and the economic benefits of blight-resistant varieties will be presented and discussed by Ewen Mullins from Teagasc.

A downloadable PDF gives the full article, sources and further contacts: AMIGA GM potato at LEAF Technical Day 2016. Contact: Ewen Mullins, Geoff Squire on behalf of AMIGA project team: Ewen.Mullins@teagasc.ie

'Green' beer from faba beans

Faba beans have now been chosen by a Scottish brewer to make a beer that's kinder to the environment. Named Tundra, the India Pale Ale brewed by Edinburgh-based Barney's Beer uses 40% whole faba beans and 60% malted barley.

Faba bean is a legume, a group of plants that fix atmospheric nitrogen, and so need no or very little mineral nitrogen fertiliser. It is described as 'light amber in colour with assertive bitterness and a distinctive hoppy character'.

Pete Iannetta writes: "Faba bean has a massive potential in Scotland ... marrying legume supported crop systems with two of Scotland's biggest industries - aquaculture and beer and spirit production." PDF download for the full article: Edinburgh craft brewer uses faba beans for new 'green' beer.

Original article published at: scotsman.com

IFM: A Framework for the Future

This was the title of a LEAF conference held on 19 May 2016. The conference examined the development of Integrated Farm Management, considered its strengths (as well as its weaknesses) and crucially, as LEAF embarks on its next 25 years, its role in addressing future challenges.

The Hutton's Geoff Squire joined other Innovations Centres and Demonstration Farmers to talk about their work. Geoff gave give a summary of the science and practice at the Leaf Innovation Centre at Balruddery and Mylnefield, near Dundee. A programme and images from the day can be found on the LEAF web site at IFM: a framework for the future.

The Hutton talk, authored by Geoff Squire and Cathy Hawes, concentrated on soil health and fertility, covering the following topics:

  • the phases of intensification since the 1940s, including the rise in yield and inputs 1960-1990, the subsequent levelling of output, and the possibility of a next phase, one of degradation, leading to declining yield;
  • the status of the cropland in eastern Scotland, based on field surveys between 2007 and 2014, and demonstrating many examples of sub-optimal soil;
  • the purpose and role of the Centre for Sustainable Cropping (CSC), our 40 ha platform at Balruddery, near Dundee, notably its attempts to shift the unsustainable trajectory of farming towards healthier soils and food webs;
  • and finally a sunmmary of the Hutton's contribution through science, the three Hutton farms - Balruddery, Glensaugh and Hartwood Home farm - that cover arable and stock production, in both lowland and upland, the CSC itself, farm networks in the East of Scotland and the outreach activities through LEAF and the Living Field project.

CSC enters final phase of six year crop sequence

The Hutton's Centre for Sustainable Cropping, a 40 hectare research platform at Balruddery Farm, is now in the final phase of the first six-year sequence of crops. All crops are on track for harvest in late summer and autumn 2016. The summer field measurements are now in full operation and all data are being validated and databased in praparation for major analysis over the autumn and winter.

Changes have been seen in the first six years. For example, soil organic matter is increasing in the 'sustainable' half of each field - an important demonstration  of what can be achieved. Discussion is also underway on the configuration of treatments over the next six years.

Web page: Centre for Sustainable Cropping. Contact: cathy.hawes@hutton.ac.uk

Going Underground: free online course reveals the secret world of soils

Lancaster University is offering an insight into one of the planet’s most undervalued natural resources with free online course.‘Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet’ is open to anyone and delivered by leading soil scientists from Lancaster University.

Course leader, Lancaster University’s Dr Carly Stevens, said: “Soils are a fantastically complex environment, teeming with life and supporting our most fundamental environmental processes.  But despite being a vital part of our planet’s functioning, all too often we take soil for granted. Our soil resource is finite and increasingly under threat. This course will take students on an underground journey to explore the basics of soil science and learn about life in the soil. Starting from what soil is and how soils form we will then look at why soil is so important and investigate the topic of soil security. Finally we will learn about how and why soils are under threat both at a local and global scale.”

Students will also get the chance to get their hands dirty with a series of activities giving them practical experience of assessing soil properties and conditions, as well as meeting leading researchers in this field. By the end of the course students will have a basic understanding of soil science from a physical, chemical and biological perspective.

‘Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet’ starts on July 6. It is open to anyone and is part of FutureLearn Choices - a collection of courses to bridge the gap between school and higher education, and help young adults choose the right degree or career. It is aimed at anyone with an interest in soils, biology, geography and environmental science. No prior knowledge is required. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/soils

International Year of Soils

2015 is the International Year of Soils, as declared by the 68th UN General Assembly and to be implemented by the Food and Agriculture organisation of the UN. The background, purpose and activities are described at the IYS web site. Here are the objectives taken from the web site:

  • Raise full awareness among civil society and decision makers about the profound importance of soil for human life;
  • Educate the public about the crucial role soil plays in food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, essential ecosystem services, poverty alleviation and sustainable development;
  • Support effective policies and actions for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources;
  • Promote investment in sustainable soil management activities to develop and maintain healthy soils for different land users and population groups;
  • Strengthen initiatives in connection with the SDG process (Sustainable Development Goals) and Post-2015 agenda;
  • Advocate for rapid capacity enhancement for soil information collection and monitoring at all levels (global, regional and national).

The Hutton has a full programme of activities to promote IYS, including exhibits at Open Farm Sunday 2015. For information, contact: Matt Aitkenhead. More to follow.

LEAF IFM Bulletin Issue 2 - 3/06/2014

The second Integrated Farm Management bulletin issued for LEAF members includes articles (pdfs) on water management as follows:  Water - global trends, local challenges by Dr Louise Manning, Royal Agricultural University; Practical measures for improving water quality as developed by three LEAF Demonstration Farmers; The importance of reducing water pollution by Paul Fogg of Makhteshim Agan (UK), a LEAF Corporate Member; Farming on the equator - how do you make every drop of water count? based on work by LEAF Marque farmers in Kenya; Farm in Focus: Tiptoe Farm in Northumberland a look at water use on the farm; and also LEAF's Guide to Pollinating Insects for Farmers.

LEAF events / notices 2014

LEAF Sustainable food and farming conference at the President's Event 2014, 12 November: reports and presentations from a variety of speakers available at this LEAF News page.

LEAF Driving Sustainability - a review of our impact, achievement and challenge 2013 (2nd Sustainability Report) was launched at Cereals 2014 and can be downloaded Sustainability Report pdf.

LEAF pledges commitment to global food security initiative. Information at media release (PDF) of 24 October 2014.

LEAF Open Farm Sunday 2014

LEAF Open Farm Sunday is on 8 June 2014. The James Hutton Institute will not host OFS this year but will be holding a LEAF Technical Day for farmers in June  (see below). LEAF is running road shows about OFS in late March and April, so any farmers interested in joining OFS can check this web page for Information Events near you.

LEAF Technical Day for farmers 2014

The Institute held a Technical Day for farmers on 3 June 2014, 9.30 to 4 pm, at Balruddery Farm. The emphasis is on sustainable farming practice. Demonstrations include soil conservation, soil properties and rooting, aspects of the nitrogen cycle, the role of legumes in fixing nitrogen, phosphorus use by plants, integrated pest management, and the long-term study base at the Centre for Sustainable cropping. Kathryn Mitchell of LEAF and Ed Baxter, a farmer from Fife, will both be giving talks. Around 50 farmers have signed up for the event. Further details: Leaf Technical Day

LEAF IFM Bulletin Issue 1 - 7/3/2014 Sustainable Soil Management

The first of series of Bulletins on Integrated Farm Management was issued today by LEAF for its members only. There will be three issues a year. The first deals with Sustainable Soil Management: in practice, research, and the industry point of view. Contents include: LEAF demonstration farmers explaining how they are making sustainable soil management work for them; Ian Robertson (from Sustainable Soil Management) emphasising the importance of physical soil health when assessing chemical quality; and Cathy Hawes describing the practical testing of soil management at the Hutton's Centre for Sustainable Cropping. These Bulletins will add to the many good reasons for joining LEAF.

LEAF Soil Management

A practical guide to soil management sponsored by LEAF and ASDA,  released early in 2014, is now available on the LEAF web site and in the form of this downloadable PDF: Simply Sustainable Soils. See also how LEAF Demonstration Farmers are putting this soil management guide into practice at a range of sites through the UK at the Simply Sustainable Soils: case studies web page. There is a downloadable PDF on the approach and findings of each site.

State of Nature report

Wildlife is on the down in most of the UK’s habitats. The 2013 report – the State of Nature - by a group of 25 bodies working in the ‘recording, researching and conservation of nature’ - gives a realistic summary of the destructive effect of human industry on living things. Not all is gloom – some species are recovering or responding to the creation of habitat or refuge, but in the main the rarities are on their way to extinction, while many of the common ones are suffering serious declines in population and range. Arable plants in farmland have declined more than any other plant group.

There are many things that farming can do to redress the balance. The Institute’s LEAF Innovation Centre farm near Dundee is creating habitat on a large scale, making connections and refuges for wildlife not just within its own land but to surrounding structures in the landscape. Our Centre for Sustainable Cropping is working on long term solutions for a sustainable agriculture that balance economic output with a healthy soil and wildlife. The Living Field project shows how a small plot of land can support hundreds of plant species by creating habitats of each a few square metres. All this can be done with benefit not penalty to long term economic output.  [More links to follow on our experience re-establishing nature on the farms.]

Cafe Science Extra "Diverting a disaster: food for thought"

Jaleh Bahri-Esfahani, a PhD student at the University of Dundee and the James Hutton Institute 'will talk about food security and the challenges we'll be facing, and give insight into her research which strives to use microorganisms to improve agriculture'. She says 'A traditional way to grow more food from the same land is to add fertilizers, which are rich in phosphorus. The fertilizers are used to enrich poor quality soils but are not used efficiently and supplies of phosphorus are running out and being wasted at the same time. We need to look at new and inventive ways of producing food in the future. We need to be clever if we are to meet the challenges of feeding a rapidly expanding global population'.

Jaleh's talk is at Dundee Science Centre, 6 pm Wednesday 12 June, free and open to all. 

Legume Futures Romania

The aim of the EU Legume Futures project is to devise new or improved legume-based cropping systems in Europe. As part of the project’s annual meeting, held in Romania this April, the group visited the research farm at Fundulea, seeing a range of grain and forage legumes in trial plots. It was particularly interesting to see how the forage legume – lucerne Medicago sativa – was standing up well to the cold winters and hot summers of this continental climate. There is no reason in principle by lucerne and other legume forages should not feature more widely in Scotland. They were more common before the advent of industrially produced fertiliser about 100 years ago.

The visit to Romania was hosted by Dr Ion Toncea of the National Agricultural Research and Development Institute, Fundulea, Romania. The photograph to the right shows a path inside a windbreak of trees next to the field  site.

Among the James Hutton Institute’s own contributions to the project is testing and use of a method (known as the 15-N technique) to measure the quantity of nitrogen fixed by legumes. This value is needed to assess the reduction in the application of industrially produced mineral nitrogen that would result if legumes were grown more widely in cropping sequences. More on the technique is given here http://www.elrc.eu/methodologies/nfixation. Contact: Pete Iannetta or Euan James.

[5 May 2013]

PURE European project on integrated pest management

The EU-funded PURE research project, 2011-2014, consists of a Europe-wide, multi-disciplinary research group aiming to bring about major developments in integrated pest mangement (IPM) as a contribution to food security and reducing the environmental footprint, particularly the pesticide footprint, of agriculture. 'Pest' includes diseases, weeds and invertebrate pests (for example, insects, nematodes). The project is working to to achieve substantial reductions in chemical pesticides by targeting crops such as vine, wheat, maize and vegetables that rely heavily on chemical control.

There is a new downloadable PURE leaflet available online.

PURE is examining existing information on IPM, filling some gaps with new data and using modelling and decision support tools to provide IPM solutions that are being tested on cropping systems across Europe. The James Hutton Institute is one of 14 academic and research partners in PURE and will contribute expertise and field work in IPM, ecological engineering, and the crops wheat and field vegetables. Emerging results are being applied and evaluated on the Centre for Sustainable Cropping at Balruddery farm near Dundee. Contacts: Nick Birch and Graham Begg.

[20 April 2013]

 [[[[30[Beans4feeds

Beans4feeds is a £2.6 million research investment through an 11 partner, industry-led project, co-funded with the UK's Technology Strategy Board. The aim is to develop new processing technology and varieties of the legume crop faba bean for use in feeding salmon, pigs and poultry. The project began on 1 January 2012 and will run for four years. The James Hutton Institute is a partner along with universities and industry groups. See the Beans4feeds website for more information.

Faba beans may be grown throughout the UK and are highly nutritious owing to their high starch and protein content. In the UK faba beans have been commonly used to feed animals such as cows and they have not yet been developed for pig, poultry and fish production. However, the beans4feeds project aims to establish ‘air classification’ as a means by which flour milled from UK grown faba beans may be separated into two fractions. One fraction is protein enriched for use in feeding trials of Atlantic salmon and the other fraction is starch enriched for pig and poultry feeds. The research programme also includes breeding new faba bean varieties that are better suited to the air classification approach. 

[26 April 2013]

Soil Amendment Meeting Edinburgh 30 May 2013

A one day meeting hosted by the British Society of Soil Science and the Institute of Professional Soil Scientists on soil amendments including biochar, rock dust, microbial bioeffectors, and green compost. Location: Peter Wilson Building, SRUC, Edinburgh EH9 3JG. For registration online, see the BSSS website and for further details contact Matt Aitkenhead at the James Hutton Institute .

[25 April 2013]

Sustainable Intensification Research Platform

LEAF HQ has been active in campaigning for a formal collaborative platform for research and knowledge exchange that delivers profitable food production and environmental sustainability. A workshop to scope main topics of a Sustainable Intensification Research Platform was hosted by Defra on 24 April 2013 at the Royal Geographical Society, Kensington Gore, London. Caroline Drummond and Kathryn Mitchell attended on behalf of LEAF and Geoff Squire for the James Hutton Institute. After several, brief introductory talks, the participants considered the topics that might be included in the Platform. Bids for research contracts will be announced later in the year. The James Hutton Institute is well placed to contribute to the Platform with its Centre for Sustainable Cropping at Balruddery and Glensaugh Research Station and wide range of expertise in food production and environmental management.

[25 April 2013]

Open Farm Sunday 12 June 2011

Open Farm Sunday, 12 June 2011 this year, was a great success. Displays and demonstrations were based at the Invergowrie site near Dundee. The weather held. The farm staff laid out a selection of tractors and other machinery, tractor tours took visitors on a round of the crops and fields, the science groups rolled out 13 distinct exhibits and the Living Field put on extra demos, including one on bread making from heritage cereals. Among others joining us on the day was Dundee City Council's Discovery Compost who process urban green waste from gardens and parks into nutrient- and carbon-rich compost, and who had free samples to hand out to visitors.

The main theme for the day was Scotland’s Sustainable Croplands – examples of the science and technology that will support our croplands through the 21st century and beyond. The welcome mix of ages, included primary school children and the very young, makes OFS a very special day for all Institute staff involved. The little girl in the photo to the right is surely a future farmer-naturalist! More information on the science displays, together with downloadable leaflets and handouts, can be found on the Living Field website.

 

 

Learning & Resources


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.