By Prof. Chris Stoate, Head of Reserach at the Allerton Project
Our research focus has historically been very much on the arable environment with research covering arable ecosystems, soils and catchment processes. Given that our farm at Loddington is primarily arable, this will probably always be so for as long as the current land use is maintained. But we also have grass on the farm and are located in a mixed farming landscape in which many farmers focus on livestock or a combination of livestock and arable cropping.
In recent years, I have been able to increase the research we are doing on grass and livestock systems. From 2015, with Nottingham University, we explored the spatial variation and seasonal changes in important trace elements in grass swards as part of our contribution to Defra's Sustainable Intensification research platform (SIP). An improved knowledge of this issue enables farmers to make informed decisions about which fields to use for grazing lambs or ewes, or to cut for silage which will be fed along with mineral supplements. Such knowledge also helps farmers to decide how best to include grass leys in their arable rotations, helping to contribute to wider catchment management objectives.
Fenced and unfenced sections of experimental deep-rooting grass ley plots for the SoilCare project
Also within the SIP, and along with our partners at Rothamsted Research's North Wyke research farm, Bangor University's research farm at Henfaes, and Nottingham University's Vet School we carried out a study exploring the means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from grazing ruminant systems, and with NIAB and Newcastle University, we investigated the obstacles and opportunities associated with introducing grass leys into arable rotations.
Within our EU funded SoilCare project, we have set up replicated experimental plots to explore the potential of several modern deep-rooting grass cultivars to meet the multiple objectives of farmers and wider society. Together, these research projects give us much more to talk about with our livestock farming neighbours, and of course with the thousands of other agricultural professionals who visit us from further afield each year.
Get the inside track on soil and water research
Priced at just £9.95, The Soil & Water Balance is a handy paperback which provides the inside track on soil and water research.
Presented in a Q&A style, much like our popular Moorland Balance, this 100-page book looks at the problems and solutions on topics ranging from erosion and contamination, to the impact on songbirds and other wildlife.
Combining years of research at the GWCT's Allerton Project demonstration farm with tens of external scientific papers, this is a fascinating study of how farming can adapt to the challenges it currently faces.
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