Top

Healthy Soil

Restoring natural fertility

The foundation for all sustainable farming

Soil is the foundation for all sustainable farming systems and we do our best to farm in a way that regenerates soil health. Fir Farm has a range of soils, from Cotswold brash on the higher ground to heavy clays down by the River Dikler.

Grassland and grazing livestock have a critical role when it comes to building soil organic matter and sequestering carbon. Our pastures are a mixture of permanent grassland and multispecies grass leys. Grassland is crucial for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere which helps to mitigate climate change.

We also grow forage legumes, such as clover, in order to fix nitrogen in the soil. These build natural soil fertility and means we do not need to use any artificial fertilisers that are a key cause of soil degradation and air and water pollution. In our efforts to farm in a closed loop system, we also recycle composted farmyard manure back into the land as a natural soil conditioner.

Soil Facts

Over

95%
of our food

comes from the soil. This means it is vital to our survival and that of almost all land animals.

Soil contains

25% of global biodiversity

and supports an intricate ecosystem of microorganisms, invertebrates, insects and small mammals.

Lost uk topsoil of

3 million tonnes
per year.

Globally, 24 billion tonnes are washed away every year. Our ay of farming minimises topsoil loss.

Soil is lost at

10x its creation
rate

because of poor land management practices, seriously threatening our future food production capacity.

Soil stores

2,500 billion
metric tonnes

of carbon, around twice as much as in the atmosphere and force times the level in plants and animals.

We’ve lost

50% of
organic carbon

in cropland to the atmosphere. Restoring soil reduces atmospheric CO2 dramatically improves water retention.

To reverse this, real systemic change is required in the way land is managed.

A return to mixed farming – integrating crop production with grassland and grazing livestock, along with deeper rooting plants and returning organic waste to farmland, ideally through compost – is essential to rebuild soil fertility and organic carbon levels.

Rearing livestock in rotation using a mob grazing system has significant benefits for the soil. Through natural trampling by the livestock, broken plant stems decompose, building organic matter and feeding the soil microbiology. Longer rooted plants draw moisture up from the ground and also keep soil covered and protected, preventing soil erosion and drought.

Since 2013 we have used Soil Quest to map the differences in soil types and nutrient levels across the farm, enabling us to tailor our manure applications and seed rates based on the exact requirements of different parts of the fields.

Video of Fir Farm conference soil session

Further resources

SFT soils page and soil report. the detrimental impact of nitrogen fertiliser and why we must build soil fertility naturally. Soil Quest: www.soilquest.co.uk