Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
This session focussed on the ecosystem services that a farm can potentially provide, and offered an insight into the inspiration that positive experiences of biodiversity can offer. Laura Hathaway-Jenkins (Cranfield University) reported on her PhD project, which studies the effect of agricultural management on soil structure and infiltration rates. John Bacon’s (Values in Nature and the Environment) presentation was given in absentia, but he encouraged us to share our passion for biodiversity in order to enthuse and inspire others. Nick Cooper (Natural England) presented the CALM (Carbon Accounting for Land Managers) tool: a software tool that allows the measurement of the effect of Environmental Stewardship options on greenhouse gas emissions from farms.
Soil is an important resource for growing food, but it is also very useful in helping to regulate water flow. Management of both arable land and grassland can be a key determinant of soil structure and tilth, infiltration rates and run-off. Laura Hathaway-Jenkins presented some of her research to date, and showed that organically managed land (both arable and grassland) had significantly higher infiltration rates than conventionally managed grassland. The key message was that good management could improve infiltration rates and reduce run-off.
John Bacon’s presentation, given by Laurence Smith, gave some of the personal highlights and lowlights of his experiences in agriculture and wildlife management. Such experiences have motivated him throughout his career, and he encouraged us to share our own positive experiences of biodiversity in this workshop. These moments, he said, can be a source of inspiration to ourselves and enthuse and inspire others.
The CALM tool can help land managers reduce their contribution to climate change. It is a free, web-based carbon accounting tool, and has been updated to include a range of Environmental Stewardship options. By inputting farm data into this software tool, land managers can find out the effect of their farm management on greenhouse gas emissions.
Discussions centred around policy and its effects on organic farming. The question was raised as to how to encourage farmers to progress from ELS (Entry Level Scheme), and whether this could be done without extra funding. Some held the view that rather than trying to promote “organic” to farmers, perhaps improved soil and lower inputs could be encouraged, whilst others felt that a more holistic approach to the whole farming system was necessary.