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£1m to improve soil management



Not well understood: Soil biology

THE AGRICULTURE ​AND HORTICULTURE DEVELOPMENT BOARD (AHDB) and the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) have announced an ambitious new research partnership to develop practical soil biology management guidance.

The five-year partnership looks to improve on-farm understanding of soil health by benchmarking current academic and industry knowledge, developing and validating indicators of soil biology and soil health in research trials and integrating a far-reaching knowledge exchange programme throughout the five-year programme.

This forms an important part of AHDB’s strategic commitment to accelerating innovation and productivity growth through coordinated research and development and knowledge exchange.

The new £1​m project is part of the AHDB GREAT soils programme, complementing a £1.5m initiative looking at soil structure, announced by AHDB last year.

Dr Elizabeth Stockdale, partnership lead from NIAB, said: “We recognise that there are already a broad range of novel soil health management strategies being used in an array of production systems; we want to bring together the best research and the most effective practical approaches on-farm by establishing up to eight farmer research innovation groups across the UK so we can help farmers develop their own site-specific best practice.”

Dr Amanda Bennett, AHDB resource management scientist, said: “Interest in soil health has mounted in recent years but soil biology is not particularly well understood, with research to date failing to generate practical materials to support on-farm decisions. Farmers and growers have themselves taken up the mantle and a great deal of work is being done out in the field experimenting with different approaches to optimising soil biology.

“This exciting new partnership will work closely with farmers, growers and advisers to draw together and build on all that knowledge and experience to create accessible guidance and tools to help farmers improve their soils’ health.”

Dr Simon Bowen, BBRO knowledge exchange & crop progression lead, said: “Soil health is both a longer-term and cross-rotational challenge and the collaborative approach across different crop sectors over the five year programme is a unique and vital research platform. Crops such as sugar beet create an opportunity as a spring-sown break crop for many growers in the East of England to deploy a range of tools and tactics. These include the application of organic amendments, the growing of over-winter cover crops and the use of different soil cultivation approaches. The challenge to measure the impacts of these different agronomic approaches in order to deliver in the most effective improvement in soil health has never been so important​.​”


Farming Connect announces Agri Academy Class of 2024



THE NAMES of this year’s intake selected to take part in the Agri Academy 2024 have been announced.

The successful candidates will meet for the first time at a reception at the Royal Welsh Show on Tuesday 23 July.

Exactly 300 alumni have completed the Agri Academy since the first cohort was recruited in 2012. Demand for the much sought after spaces has grown year on year and this year’s recruitment process was exceptionally competitive with a record number of candidates. Previous alumni have credited the Agri Academy for forging invaluable friendships and business connections that lay the foundations for a network of support and knowledge that can be tapped into for years to come.

The Agri Academy provides an action-packed programme of training, mentoring, support and guidance over 3 intense residential sessions and including overseas study visits and has 2 distinct elements.

  1. Agri Academy – for individuals over 21 and aimed at supporting and inspiring the next generation of farming entrepreneurs and trailblazers in Wales.
  2. Junior Academy – aimed at supporting young people aged between 16 and 21 years who hope to carve out a career or set up a business in the food or farming industries.

Later this year, candidates selected for the Agri Academy programme will undertake an overseas study visit to Ontario, Canada while the Junior Academy candidates will be visiting Norway.

One of the candidates selected this year is Emyr Wyn Owen, who manages the day-to-day operations of Rhug Estate’s organic farm near Corwen, which involves a diverse range of livestock enterprises.

Emyr is a strong believer in peer-to-peer learning and is hoping that the Agri Academy will spark ideas and provide experiences that will enable him to return to the business with a fresh mindset and enthusiasm to take on the next set of challenges and opportunities.

Another participant is Dylan Wyn Jones, a farmer’s son who has set up a Hobbit House hospitality business to add value to the family’s Sheep and Beef farm near Mallwyd, Machynlleth.

He is looking forward to learning about different agricultural systems that will help him develop new approaches to his current business.

“The experience will be an opportunity to make new connections in the agricultural sector and to share ideas and learn from them.”

Selected for the Junior Academy, Lisa Jenkins from Llanybydder looks forward to broaden her network with like-minded young Welsh farmers to address the challenges facing the industry as well as to learn more about different farming systems across the country and further afield.

She’s a fourth-generation farmer who is currently working on the family beef, sheep and dairy farm as well as working part time at another neighbouring dairy farm.

Another candidate selected for this year’s Junior Academy is Emma Corfield who, having last year completed her A-levels in Biology, Maths and Business, has returned home to work alongside her father on the mixed beef, sheep and arable family farm near Newtown.

Emma is passionate about educating the public on the role of farmers and promoting Welsh produce. She is hoping that the experiences the Agri Academy will provide, through media and communication training will give her the skills and confidence to pursue these goals.

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FUW sets out its key priorities at the Royal Welsh Show



THE Farmers’ Union of Wales has set out its robust asks of the UK and Welsh Governments despite the challenges presented by navigating through a constantly changing political landscape.

Speaking at the Royal Welsh Show this week, FUW President Ian Rickman reiterated the fact that the Union’s stance remains constant and relentless in an ever changing political arena.

“Welsh farming is at an important crossroads which will determine our future for decades to come. Whilst our direction of travel depends heavily on the development of devolved agricultural policies, we must not forget how decisions made by the newly elected UK Government will effectively determine the degree of funding the Welsh Government has available to support agriculture and rural development.

“This, in turn, will have an impact upon the extent to which Welsh food producers can be expected to compete against producers in other UK nations and across the globe on various levels.

“Despite these challenges, our focus as a Union is to keep-on lobbying governments relentlessly for the best possible outcomes for our members, Welsh agriculture and our rural communities.

“The recent Senedd Cabinet reshuffle and UK General Election certainly brought about considerable change to the political landscape in Wales, not least the appointment of Huw Irranca-Davies MS as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and a new UK Labour Government holding a majority at Westminster.

“However, turmoil in Cardiff persists as Vaughan Gething’s resignation leaves the door wide open for yet another reshuffle within a matter of a few months.

At a UK level, the FUW is calling for a fair, multiannual funding settlement of £450 million per year in EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) legacy funding for agriculture and rural development in Wales.

“The role of this support in underpinning food production, environmental protection and rural communities in Wales cannot be underestimated.

“We also need to see a far more robust approach to future trade deals with other countries and trading blocs if we are to protect Welsh farmers and UK food security. Food imports and exports must be subject to the same customs and adherence to similar standards if we are to provide a level playing field for both UK and EU producers.”

The FUW is calling for incentives and support for farmers to invest in on-farm renewable energy production that benefits local communities. Food production should be recognised as a national asset and the use of productive agricultural land to meet tree planting and other environmental targets should be halted.

Procurement policies must prioritise public sector support for Welsh and British businesses, recognising the range of benefits such properly designed policies can deliver for society. The newly elected UK Labour Government must also protect and promote the UK’s high animal health and welfare standards and bring in a law that ensures that all dogs should be kept on a lead in fields near or adjacent to livestock.

“Despite the uncertainty in Cardiff, we call on the Welsh Government to build strong relations with the newly elected UK Labour Government to ensure that Welsh agriculture receives the attention it deserves. EU CAP legacy funding allocated for Welsh agriculture and rural development must be protected for this purpose and such funding should continue to be co-funded using national funds.

“The ongoing process of negotiating a revised Sustainable Farming Scheme that provides stability for our food producing family farms must also continue if the scheme is to be implemented in 2026. It is crucial that the scheme considers economic, social and environmental sustainability on equal footings and is accessible and achievable for all active farmers in Wales.

“We also want to see the adoption of practical and innovative technological solutions as a central part of the Control of Agricultural Pollution ‘NVZ’ Regulations review. The process must be based on robust data and evidence while seeking to address water quality issues through innovation rather than regulation.”

Mr Rickman added that the Welsh Government has to, now more than ever before, adopt a scientific and holistic approach to bovine TB eradication in Wales by working with the Technical Advisory Group in investigating the effectiveness of current testing regimes and methods for addressing disease transmission by wildlife.

“Finally, moves towards net zero must be sustainable and based on robust science in such a way that actions carried out in response to short-term targets are not reversed. Reducing our carbon footprint must be manageable and realistic, and must not compromise production or the economic viability of farming businesses.

“The coming days are a celebration of Welsh agriculture and the farmers who continue to produce high quality food and protect the environment against a constant backdrop of political uncertainty and challenge.”

Mr Rickman said that the impacts of such uncertainty across the UK and some fundamental policy questions would be the focus of the FUW’s seminars being held over the coming days, as panels of professionals tackle a diverse range of areas of concern for Welsh farming.

“As always, in addition to these events, our staff and Presidential Team will be meeting officials and stakeholders in order to highlight FUW’s farming members’ good news stories and industry concerns. Rest assured, despite navigating a constantly changing political landscape, our constant and relentless stance remains; to represent the interests of Welsh farmers,” concluded Mr Rickman.

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Tory call to bring forward Senedd debate on Welsh farming



FARMING is vital to the people of Wales, whilst making a valuable economic contribution to the Welsh economy, and our local communities. It’s simple, no farmers, no food, the Welsh Conservatives said in a statement.

Yet, they add, the Welsh Labour Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme, and the UK Labour Government including just 87 words about farming in their General Election manifesto, evidently shows Labour’s distain for our farming community.

In the Senedd today, the Welsh Conservatives are bringing forward a Senedd motion celebrating the importance of farming, whilst calling on Labour to bring forward a plan for our farmers, and ensure a new Sustainable Farming scheme has the support of the farming community.

Commenting ahead of the debate, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, James Evans MS, said: “Labour continues to take our farmers for granted. Unlike Labour, the Welsh Conservatives would make sure we have a Sustainable Farming Scheme that works for our farmers, not against them, safeguarding the future of our crucial industry.

“In the Senedd next week, I look forward to bringing forward our Welsh Conservative debate on the importance of farming, showing the Welsh Conservatives is that friend the farming community needs. It’s simple, no farmers, no food.”

The motion which will be debated today reads:

To propose that the Senedd:

  1. Celebrates the valuable economic contribution of Welsh farming to the Welsh economy.
  2. Acknowledges the benefits of events such as the Royal Welsh Show, the National Eisteddfod and summer shows in supporting rural communities and promoting the Welsh culture and the Welsh language.
  3. Supports the strength of feeling in the agricultural community against the sustainable farming scheme, and the powerful message of no farmers no food.
  4. Calls on the Welsh Government to:

a) ensure a new sustainable farming scheme has the support of the farming community, with food security and environmental protection at its heart, highlighting the powerful message of no farmers no food; and

b) work with the UK Government to expand on its 87 words regarding farming in the UK Labour general election manifesto, to bring forward a plan for farming and farmers across the United Kingdom.

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