What do an umbrella, forage harvester and wild flower meadow have in common? The answer is delivering more nature through improved soil biology, land for ‘wild nature’ and habitat for pollinators – all via ‘agri-tech’ innovation. So, further to my 90sec vlog, I’ll unpack my thinking below. Feel free to comment below!
We all applaud a bit of shade when it’s hot. Groundswell is back in action this year and I was in the tent last year when George Eustice took heat from the audience. He’s not the only one. When this product appeared in a Farmers Weekly article, ridicule spread far and wide beyond farming circles on social media.
But viewed from another angle, as regenerative agricultural practices gain hold and livestock grazing regimes – including labour intensive practices such as rotational grazing – boost soil biology and structure, which then holds more carbon: for animal welfare reasons alone, temporary shade is now required during hotter climes.
Of course trees are great, wood pasture brilliant, even ‘old fashioned’ shelterbelts help, but not every field can wait for a tree while we nurture some agricultural soils back to life using livestock.
‘Beep, beep, whirring rotary, beep, beep, (automaton voice) “warning: incoming Amazon grass delivery”‘
Many found this easy to laugh at. Few held back. Why invent a battery-powered forage harvester which autonomously delivers grass to feed cattle indoor when they could just eat it in-situ? That’s too simple, when four-legged enteric machines need to repurpose their place in a modern countryside.
Mind you, in subsidence farmed Transylvania they practice zero grazing. Perhaps it’s easier to keep them closer to hand (those wolves) or don’t want cattle trampling valuable pasture. A form of ‘intensive grass movement to save wilder spaces from being farmed‘. Those last five words can bring some up in hives as we seek to reduce our food demands and/or increase yields from smaller areas.
When someone asks how to create a wildflower meadow, we love it. Reversing the trend of monoculture ryegrass, disrupting a uniform lawn or rebooting a lank grass corner. But there’s one thing we tend to go sotto voce on: judicious use of herbicide to effectively clear existing vegetation.
Rather like regenerative agriculture’s [occasional] dependence on the same pesticides to reduce soil disturbance, facilitate minimal cultivations (so lock in carbon) and keep yield-sapping ‘weeds’ at bay.
Even Riverford’s organic boss, Guy Singh-Watson, says we need to talk about glyphosate.
Two track minds
My 14 year old daughter suggests I change my twitter bio. (yes, 12 years a slave) to “I want you to think”.
I prefer F Scott Fitzgerald’s “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”.
So with a fully stocked, if arguably opposing ideas, tool box of a livestock umbrella, some wildflower herbicide and a grass saving robot, let’s seek to work hard together towards the post-oil era.
Pingback: a previous blog on ecological intensification.