Duncan Farrington: Confessions of a soil nerd

Duncan Farrington is a self-confessed soil nerd
Duncan Farrington is a self-confessed soil nerd

The new year is a time to be looking to the future on the farm.

I have been refreshing my knowledge on how to manage our soils.

Soil is my pet area of interest, as ultimately everything we eat, whether this is meat, milk or vegetables comes from the soil it was grown in.

Looking after soils both nutritionally and physically will ultimately look after us.

To this end we have not ploughed on our farm since 1998. Ploughing is the traditional way farmers have prepared ground to plant crops for thousands of years.

It has many benefits, and up until the past 100 years was mainly carried out behind a horse.

However, with the advent of the tractor, bigger and heavier machines have been used, which has bought some disadvantages from a soil health perspective.

At Bottom Farm we talk terms such as “Minimum Tillage” or “Direct Drilling”.

We use “Cover Crops” and various other techniques, all of which have bought huge, measurable benefits to our soil health in increased organic matter and improved nutrition.

However, as our soils have improved, my knowledge has not kept up with the latest advances so it has been really refreshing to learn more on the better use of cover cropping, crop rotations and improvements in how to establish crops.

Some may say it is a dull subject and if you were to accuse me of being a soil nerd, I am happy to go along with that.

Agriculture and farming offer very interesting careers, not often considered by those from outside the industry.

It is at the cutting edge of technology; for example I have just learned about the use of LED lighting to grow British strawberries throughout the year, or in my case understanding the biology involved in creating healthy soils.

However, it is also about an appreciation of the natural world we work within.

Agriculture is a growing industry, needing to recruit about 60,000 people by 2020.

There are jobs for all sorts of careers from animal husbandry and engineers to biologists, financial and commodity trading.

I am just looking to recruit one person this year, perhaps someone who is willing to share my passion about looking at the ground beneath our feet.