The School Farm demonstration catchment

After more than twenty years of farming and data collection, we have a valuable set of records for our farm at Loddington. This is especially so for the 155 hectare catchment in the northern part of the farm where, as well as data on crop inputs and yields, soil nutrients and bird distribution, we have a valuable aquatic dataset for a three year period from the Defra-funded PARIS project. These include nutrient concentrations, aquatic invertebrates and diatoms.

School Farm

We have recently completed the GIS base map for the catchment, providing a resource that will have a number of applications as we take this work forward. As the map shows, the catchment is a microcosm of lowland England, comprising an ancient semi-natural SSSI woodland, other more recent woods and hedges, cropped land and pasture, of which the latter is used for lamb production, and for horses. There are rural houses and roads, ditches, streams and ponds, and habitats created specifically for wildlife under our Environmental Stewardship agreement.

We are currently developing this catchment as a demonstration of ecosystem services, the various benefits we gain from the environment and the interactions between them. To this end we are continuing to monitor water quality and flow at the base of the catchment, have mapped the breeding birds, and surveyed earthworms, soil microbial biomass and soil organic matter in relation to the three major land uses – arable, pasture and woodland. We can use these results to explore how we maintain or increase food production, while simultaneously delivering all the other resources our society demands of the agricultural landscape.

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