Thursday, 4 December 2014

Seminar on Agroecology and Sustainable Intensification - 14 January 2015, London

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Trevelyan Hall, St Matthew's Conference Centre, St Matthew's House
20 Great Peter Street
London SW1P 2BU
Free Admission

Dear Sir/Madam

On behalf of the inter-agency Land Use Policy Group (LUPG), I’d like to invite you to join us at a one-day seminar designed to explore the potential for agro-ecological approaches to contribute to the sustainable intensification of agriculture.

In parallel with the promotion of sustainable intensification, there is a growing interest in agro-ecology, as exemplified by a number of reports[1] [2]. Following the previous work we commissioned on sustainable intensification, LUPG has now asked the Organic Research Centre (ORC) to examine  the relationships between the sustainable intensification and agro-ecology concepts via a desk-based study. This project is intended  to explore the extent to which the two concepts are compatible as well as assessing whether agro-ecological systems and strategies are a valid and/or necessary path to sustainable intensification in both the UK and European contexts.

We would be delighted to see you at ORC’s forthcoming presentation of their findings at the St Matthew’s Conference Centre in London on Wednesday 14 January 2015.  More information, including a location map is available at:

We are planning for the event to start at 10.30 am and finish at around 15.30 in the afternoon. We are also intending for all of the feedback received to be taken into account in the preparation of the final report.

The agenda is likely to cover the following themes and will include a panel discussion (including Dr Tara Garnett of the Food Climate Research Network, Prof Tim Benton from Leeds University, Prof Charles Godfray from Oxford University,  Stuart Knight from NIAB, and Phil Jarvis from the Allerton Project (Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust)) :

·        A review of agro-ecological systems and strategies;

·        Assessing the relative performance of agro-ecological systems/strategies against more conventional approaches to sustainable intensification;

·        Establishing whether and to what extent agro-ecological systems/strategies can contribute to sustainable intensification;

·        A discussion on barriers and opportunities to the uptake of agro-ecological systems/strategies.

In order that we can cater for your dietary needs, please let us know about any special requirements as soon as possible.

All responses should be sent to and please feel free to pass this invitation onto a colleague if you are unable to join us on the day.

The final programme will be circulated closer to the date - and we look forward to welcoming you on 14 January 2015.

Yours sincerely
C├ęcile Smith
Scottish Natural Heritage on behalf of the Land Use Policy Group

[1] The Centre for Agroecology and Food Security (2013)  Mainstreaming Agroecology: Implications for Global Food and Farming Systems, Discussion Paper. Coventry University/Garden Organic,%20Journal%20Articles/MainstreamingAgroecology_WEB.pdf
[2] Olivier de Schutter (2011) Agroecology and the Right to Food, Report by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food,  UN.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Winter's Here

Another Loddington photo snapshot

Late sown wheat just poking through in the late autumn sunshine

Wheat and volunteer beans
As the wet soggy weather sets in...
on a dreary autumn day
the winter beans are peaking through.
We're sharing knowledge with Kelloggs farmers
and everyone's interested in cover crops
It seems a while ago we had showery combining weather
but a fantastic July

and my second favourite picture of the year.. hay making

My favourite picture.. Longwools at Loddington
Rufus on look out duty..
and yesterday home time for some of the Longwools

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Peter Thompson replies to the 'Elephant in the room'

This is taken from todays guest blogger Peter Thompson

The Elephant in the room - world population growth.

Fellow GWCT colleague “Farmer Phil” Jarvis wrote an interesting piece on the difficulties that the agricultural industry will face, if in the future we continue to loose active agro-chemical ingredients and don’t replace them with new technology. You can read what he had to say on:

Phil finished his article by saying “The elephant in the room - 'population growth'... who would like to continue that debate?”

Well Phil, you know me - so here are a few thoughts on the subject!

At the moment there are more than 7 billion people on the planet, all of whom need feeding and we are already falling short as more than 800 million people are hungry. According to the United Nations, we will need 60% more food than we currently produce to feed the world’s projected population by 2050.

Listen, I’m certainly no expert on this, but that sounds all a bit scary to me. So I have turned to two people who are experts in this field – namely Malcolm Potts, Bixby professor at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley and Martha Campbell, who is president of Venture Strategies for Health and Development and a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley.
This is what they have to say on the matter.

“The United Nations Population Division has made a radical shift in its population predictions. Previously, the organization had estimated that the number of people living on the planet would reach around 9 billion by 2050 — and then level off. Now everything has changed: Rather than levelling off, the population size will continue to grow, reaching 10 billion or more at century's end. Rapid population growth inhibits many of the factors of development from proceeding apace — including education and health. 

In all our research, we have not found any country, with the exception of a few oil-rich states, that has developed or extricated itself from poverty while maintaining high average family size. Countries with high birth rates tend to find it difficult or impossible to expand their education systems or their health systems adequately to keep up with the need. However, at present many women across the globe, especially poor women, do not have access to family planning.

This matters beyond any one country or region. If we want to live in an ecologically sustainable world, we'll have to meet the needs of the present without compromising the natural resources and services our children and grandchildren will need. Given time, and a great deal of scientific ingenuity, we might still be able to reduce our consumption and pull a world of 8 billion people back to a biologically sustainable economy by the end of the century. But a world of 10 billion could do irreversible damage to the planet. It's just too many people.

We've now been warned. If measures are taken now, we could still keep the 2050 world population at around 8 billion. We have to ensure that the population can be slowed by purely voluntary means and within a human rights framework. We need to galvanize the political will to make it happen and invest now so that family planning options are universally available. Fail to do so, and we may give birth to a new, difficult era of poverty instead”.

So, it appears blatantly obvious to me anyway, that if all life, including humans, is to have any sort of future on this planet, then we need to act quickly to introduce widespread contraception across the world, making sure that the wealthier nations help to fund the poorer countries so as to make this possible.

So Phil, as requested I have continued the debate. But actually what is needed now is action, not more words.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

'Plant Protection Products' Debate

The report published by Andersons today,   'The Effect of the Loss of Plant Protection Products on UK Agriculture and Horticulture and the Wider Economy' is a thorough study exploring some of the issues facing farmers and growers. The report was commissioned by the National Farmers Union, Crop Protection Association and the Agricultural Industries Confederation. It illustrates a number of conundrums, dilemmas and challenges faced by UK and European agriculture.

The issue
The changing regulation of plant protection products from a risk based system to hazard based, reduces the chemistry available to growers. It would appear that a number of other factors are influencing  the approvals and renewal process and sound science has less of an impact.
Reduction of active ingredients over  since 2000

Plant protection products, in Europe, are already among the most closely regulated in the world and have a part to play in modern food production.
  • With more restrictions on the horizon many will say the registration and renewal process that governs plant protection products is flawed. This process says most sprays are hazardous and should be restricted.
  • Less plant protection will be available to growers and this will have a negative impact on efficient food production.
  • Agricultural investment and innovation will be stifled in over regulated European economies driving investment to other parts of the world.
Some commentators have stated that such an 'evolving regulation system' offers a high level of protection for human and animal health. It is the 'intensive use of pesticides that is undermining our ecosystems' and support for this report is 'scaremongering' and 'crying wolf'.

The challenges
We need to pay more attention to the planets growing population - as a species we continually ignore unsustainable population growth and the pressure it places on the world's limited resources. This human expansion, increases the need for more efficient food production. This is also an issue in England, as shown below.

We recognise the need to develop food production systems that impact less on our soils, water and air whilst still producing sufficient food. Such systems are advocated by LEAF's Integrated Farm Management and our own 'Allerton Approach'. Remember growing food under any system will impact on the environment. Our own government also have a responsibility to keep a productive and competitive UK agricultural sector, growing food from our fields for our consumers. Increasing imported food also has an environmental footprint.

So let's advocate risk based approach to plant protection product regulation, based on sound science. Encourage technology and investment in our agricultural sector. We also need to make sure the increase in British food production and productivity is at the centre of UK policy and that view is represented within Europe.
Recent trends would suggest a yield plateau, the reasons are numerous and a subject for discussion on their own.

The Allerton Project  will continue to embrace both cultural, organic, science and technology in pursuit of a sustainable crop production systems. As vice chairman of our NFU County Group, I'm proud to support the efforts of UK farmers to produce safe and affordable food.

The elephant in the room of 'population growth',... who would like to continue that debate?


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Allerton Supporting CFE

Living and working in the countryside can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. Take a look at the Campaign for the Farmed Environment video showing farming in the countryside.

Made by the NFU in conjunction with farmers and some of the team from the Allerton Project.

I challenge you to not start humming!!!

More can information can be found at the NFU website

Pollen and Nectar
GPS controlled combining
Canary grass and clovers


Chicory visited by pollinators

Temporary drainage channels with the mole plough

Flower margins

GPS direct drilling

Friday, 26 September 2014

Drilling, Drainage and Dirt

As the drilling season gets into full swing, here's another photo 'snapchat' from Loddington.

Our drilling scenarios are as follows 22 fields direct drilled or one pass strip tillage, 7 fields after a deep tine cultivation, 2 fields disced first and 2 fields after the plough.

The Dale drill on demo

30 acres ploughed after spring beans before wheat..blackgrass !!
Deep tine primary cultivation followed by the sowing
wheat with the Claydon drill
One pass drilling operation 

Radish cover crop today...spring oats in 2015

Grass, flower and pollen and nectar trial drilled on 5th September

CFE Operation Pollinator mix on the 26th September

Down in the dirt... it might be dry on top but its wet underneath. For all you drainage aficionados
-150mm main drain with 28  junction connections ..oh joy

400 metres later...
A drainage junkie's truck....

The GWCT's logo is a partridge,
 but all I found in this hedgerow pear tree was a hatful of pears
     This has been a Farmer Phil production.

Monday, 1 September 2014

August Snapshot

There was some great weather around the country in July and many of the crops ripened well. The calendar turned over into August, the combine rolled out of the shed and the showers tested our patience.

We finished combining wheat on the 24th August and yields have been above average, with other crops being about on our 5 year average. Forty hectares of spring oats and 120 hectares of beans are left to combine. The forecast is for the weather to pick up tomorrow so fingers crossed for the final harvest push.

As the drizzle sweeps across Leicestershire here are a few photos to show progress through August.

Last day of the glorious early August sunshine.

Harvesting direct drilled wheat into a grass ley

Moody harvest weather sunshine and showers!!

The fine weather is 'somewhere over the rainbow'

A diverse Leicestershire landscape...its still raining!

There will be better yields, but on this soil and after 2012 and 2013...its best not to be too greedy.
8.5 tonnes/ha on milling and 9.5t/ha on feed wheat. Will exaggerate in the pub!!

A new tup for Loddington Longwools

Cover crops and oilseed rape drilling

Still showers in the distance as osr gets drilled

Up, up and away for the osr and cover crop

Its a constant battle against slugs!!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Harvest and Habitat Progress

Well, the rain has dampened spirits for a few days but it has been a glorious start to the harvest weather. Here are a few snaps of what is going on around the farm.

OSR harvest complete....yields in the region of 4t/ha
Direct drilled wheat into grass ley.. should be ready in the next few days
Spring Oats are a few weeks away

Two different cultivation techniques to try a germinate blackgarss

Hay making underway


Flowering chicory attracting plenty of bees

The pollen and nectar is looking well !!