Friday, 19 April 2013

'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 140 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 an important aquatic dataset for a three year period from the Defra-funded 'PARIS' project. This includes nutrient concentrations, aquatic invertebrates and diatoms.

The GIS base map for the catchment has recently been completed by Linnea Aronsson, providing a resource that will have a number of applications.  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 developing this catchment as a practical demonstration of ecosystem services, the various benefits we gain from the environment and the interactions between them.  To this end we installed new water monitoring equipment at the base of the catchment last year, 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.  This initiative provides an exciting opportunity to explore how we maintain or increase food production to meet growing demand, while simultaneously delivering all the other resources our society demands of the agricultural landscape. 

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