The group CA-UK officially launches in January to help farmers exchange information and ideas and to offer training and advice on conservation agriculture, also known as no-till farming.
Mr Reynolds was among the first in the UK to pioneer this approach when he began adopting it on the Little Dalby Estate in Leicestershire 15 years ago. Now other ECT farmers are following his lead.
Conservation agriculture is a way of growing crops without disturbing the soil, using a specialised drill. In the long-term it enhances soil quality, bringing higher yields, improving the environment and reducing farm costs.
Tony Reynolds now uses the approach on all three of his farms – he is tenant of Wheathill Farm and East Farm on the Trust’s Little Dalby Estate, and his own Thurlby Grange Farm over the border in Lincs.
He has seen significant reduction in establishment costs, from £266 a hectare, based on the John Nix Farm Management Pocketbook, to £30 a hectare, which includes fuel consumption reduced by 50 per cent. Meanwhile, the soil quality has improved greatly with a huge increase in organic matter and earthworms.
There have been challenges, but Tony says CA-UK will help disseminate lessons learned to other farmers.
“The major asset of a farm is its topsoil, but generally we’ve left the soil in such a state that you need to put so much into it to grow anything,” he said.
“Conservation agriculture really is a win-win scenario – as well as reduced costs, it can lead to increased soil fertility and productivity, more efficient use of water, a significant reduction in erosion and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
“We very much appreciate the encouragement and interest the Trust has shown in this and it’s heartening that other ECT farmers are now taking it on.”
www.conservation-agriculture.uk will be live in January 2017.