23 January

Agricultural insights & crop rotation for land owners

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Our soil is in desperate need of recovery

The degradation cost of soil is £1.2 billion per year and the loss of both the volume and quality of soil has a significant impact on our environment. Impacting everything from our ability to absorb carbon to the production of growing our food. This is an issue, especially as our population continues to expand by the day. So how can we ensure that our agricultural environment is optimised and cultivated to recovery?

The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs released official statistics in the UK’s Food Security Report (2021).

“Food waste in agriculture and in the supply chain is an economic and environmental loss”.

The stats are incredibly high with the estimated annual combined surplus and waste totalling at 3.6 million tonnes (Mt). This is due to a lot of unnecessary land and resource use, where millions of carbon emissions are released and billions of pounds are wasted. To reverse the cycle of waste, we need to therefore optimise our use of the land to ensure that we are producing food more efficiently and reducing waste materials from accumulating.

Figure source: Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs – Indicator 2.2.2 Agriculture and supply chain waste

Is crop rotation our answer?

Crop rotation has many benefits – from soil fertility to weed, pest and disease control. Through changing crops annually, this reduces the chances of particular soil deficiencies developing. With different crops having different nutrient requirements it’s important to be aware of this when establishing what soil to tend your crops with. Crops such as potatoes and squashes have more dense foliage and this suppresses weeds, reducing the demand for weed maintenance. Soil pests and diseases tend to attack specific plant families. By rotating the crops between sites, this will help to decline the number of pests. The Royal Horticultural Society shares further insights, learn more here.

How to cultivate crop rotation

Farmers are greatly impacted by the negative effects that come with intensive crop cultivation. The high demands for food and lack of biodiversity have left many Farmer’s with land that has poorer soil, reducing their ability to work, leading to food scarcity. Sustainable food production methods are needed to facilitate the UK’s long term plan of protecting natural, healthy soil, water and biodiverse ecosystems. Good farming practices should come into force to reverse the effects of intensive crop cultivation. One of the key principles of organic farming, reiterated by government statistics is crop rotation. This can reduce harm to the land and improve soil health, offering long term sustainability. Furthermore, crop yields reverse the decline of biodiversity as it curves the loss of habitats and enables nature to flourish.

Integrating agriculture within solar farming projects 

Solar farms have a multifunctional connection to the land and produce clean energy, whilst also offering livestock grazing for animals. The agrivoltaic (dual-use) of solar offers a promising opportunity within the industry as it enables food crops to grow in between the rows of panels. The productivity of an agrivoltaic plot is considerably higher as mentioned by sustainability researcher, Dr. Richard Randle-Boggis as it is producing two different outputs at the same time.

Looking at the land from a multifunctional perspective

Farmers are currently faced with huge challenges to overcome. With increased regulations, unstable incomes, whilst the impacts of climate change continue to create set backs. If we want to see a change, there needs to be more diversity in the development of energy infrastructures within the land. This can be resolved by integrating a small portion of solar into the farm, to optimise the landscape with renewable energy solutions. At Exagen, we have a long-term vision when integrating solar farms into wider land to foster biodiversity and enhance the land with renewable energy.

These are some of the benefits surrounding land diversification.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) supports solar and encourages farmers to embrace this use of land to enhance longevity of agricultural environments. If you have any further questions about agriculture and renewable energy, send us a tweet.

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