Paul Cherry writes
We are finding that one of the reasons (but not the principle reason) farmers are looking to go to no-till is nervousness about the current and future finances of arable farming. We have all become featherbedded by subsidies, but without these payments, even the most efficient farms are pretty marginal financially, especially if you strip out diversification.
Brexit is now going ahead, and so there is the real possibility that Pillar 1 payments will be reduced or diverted away from farm subsidies to something more politically sensitive and this does not mean an end to the volatility of commodity prices. If subsidies were to be shifted towards environmental efforts, then farming which increases soil organic matter, reduces erosion and increases the carbon capture in your soils must be a win for the farm and a win for the future of farming.
A no-till system won't guarantee the best yields in the parish, but it makes a farm more future proof in terms of soil quality and ability to weather market fluctuations. We are seeing quite dramatic improvements to soil organic matter, areas that were white chalk are now dark, and fields that were impossible clay are now friable. It may be a hard concept to grasp, but we are competing for market share with arable farmers across the globe, and the vast majority of them wouldn't know what a subsidy is, so they know all about reducing costs to the absolute minimum to keep afloat.
We all want to save the planet, but when it comes down to it, the priority is to feed the people on it first. What we are trying to do is maintain the no-till approach, which seems to enable both these things at once.
At Groundswell this year we are aiming to explore this topic in more detail, with real life cost analysis from no-till systems, so it's not just seeing it from the earthworm's point of view.
The Groundswell No-Till Show takes place on 28-29th June 2017
Tickets are available here