The programme initially in 3 pilot areas, will trial new ways to improve soils physical structure and biological health. Using novel technologies that optimise production whilst lowering inputs, a combination that will help in the longer term to improve the financial resilience of those farming businesses involved. The Sustainable Landscapes Programme plans to help improve water quality by reducing the volume of soil erosion and the levels of nutrients and pesticides within the water courses.
The Project conceived and delivered by Future Food Solutions is sponsored by Yorkshire Water and has evolved out of the Sustainable Futures programme which has been running for 3 years, now involving more than 200 Yorkshire farmers. Yorkshire Water working with Future Food Solutions are keen to find a way to work more collaboratively with these farmers and through improved relationships develop a partnership approach to tackling some of the key issues they face around water quality.
The programme was inspired by the success of the Upland Land Management Programme which focused on improving the quality of Blanket Bog, where landowners, farmers, gamekeepers and the water company, worked together collaboratively to deliver mutual benefits for all. The Sustainable Landscapes Programme will adopt some of the partnering methods trialled in this model, and the learnings from Sustainable Futures which has delivered process change in the lowland arable areas of Yorkshire.
Yorkshire Water working with Future Food Solutions have identified that, one way to improve water condition, is by looking back within the value chain and recognising the close correlation that water tested downstream has with local area soil health. The Programme will work with farmers to improve soil organic matter, utilising a range of different approaches, depending on soil type and cropping. Soil with a high organic matter content, can hold more water following rain and prevent surface run off that leads to soil erosion and valuable nutrients entering the waterways. Also soil with higher organic matter levels is more resilient to drought, helping to maintain crop yields in dry seasons.
Sustainable Landscapes will support the increased use of cover crops, new cultivation ideas and precision farming techniques that will increase and conserve soil organic matter. The Programme will also encourage the uptake of new ways to control pests and diseases, particularly slugs. One area of focus of the programme in the longer term, is to replace the use of Metaldehyde pellets as a method of slug control.
The connection through the Programme with soil scientists, Precision Decisions and Farm Plan, will help farmers measure soil quality more accurately. They will also be able to manage crop inputs more precisely to maximise yields, improve margins and reduce nutrient losses into the waterways. The programme will illustrate how the farmer can benefit commercially. How the rural environment will be enhanced by lowering the use of chemicals and how water quality can be improved by keeping nutrients and pesticide inputs on the fields, where they are most effective.