Supply industry follows farming in a green direction

With new policy measures likely to push farming in a greener direction, the supply industry which provides the sector with fertilisers and crop protection products would appear to be moving the same way.

Chris Martin
Chris Martin

And this week two major agricultural supply companies announced initiatives which showed a move away from the old ‘chemistry set’ approach to growing crops and forage, with a closer focus on sustainability and climate change issues.

A new booklet outlining the key principles of regenerative agriculture - and the many benefits such a system could offer to modern farming - was released by leading agronomy company Agrovista.

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“The ongoing degradation of biodiversity and soil fertility that global agriculture has experienced has led to increasing calls internationally to switch from degenerative to regenerative approaches,” said Chris Martin, the guide’s author and head of soil health at Agrovista.

He said that while regenerative agriculture had shot to prominence over the past couple of years in the UK, many people were unsure what it actually entailed.

“I define it as a system of farming principles and practices that aims to reverse the errors created by previous unsustainable methods,” said Martin.

He said the approach worked alongside nature to increase biodiversity, improve soils and protect the environment, while delivering benefits to humans through an improved natural environment and healthier ecosystems.

He said that for many in the industry, the journey towards regenerative agriculture could appear very daunting:

“However, it is not prescriptive – how far people want to go is a personal choice. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and it can be undertaken at a pace that suits the individual.”

He said that by adopting some of the principles in the guide that best fitted a farm’s individual circumstances, growers could start to build long-term soil health and functionality whilst maintaining farm yields and improving overall farm profitability.

Martin said that the approach revolved around five key principals: limiting the amount of physical and chemical disturbance of the soil; keeping the soil covered as much as possible; maintaining living roots in the soil for as long as possible; harnessing plant and crop diversity; and integrating livestock into the system.

“It is vital that we understand the relationship between the physical structure, biology and chemical processes within the soil, and the farming practices that affect them,” says Martin.

Meanwhile in a separate initiative Norwegian fertiliser manufacturers Yara announced a deal with a Swedish agri-supply co-operative to market fertiliser manufactured without the use of fossil fuels.

And extremely energy-hungry process, most manufacturing plants harness natural gas as their main power supply – but under the new initiative renewable sources such as Norwegian hydro-power will be used in the process to create ammonia, the building block of many fertilisers.

The companies claim that the resulting product will have a carbon footprint which is 20-90% smaller than that produced by conventional means, constituting a major step forward in the race to reach carbon-neutral farming and to de-carbonise the entire food chain.

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