The omni-benefits of regenerative pasture
Managing grasslands in a way that mimics natural grazing by wild animals improves water infiltration, reduces erosion, conserves nutrients, reduces costs, raises production and increases profits, writes Natasha Giddings. Why isn't everyone doing it?
Farmers are often scapegoated for the problems we face regarding soil erosion, pollution, and particularly this year, flooding.
But they too are worried about how to sustain productivity under current and future economic and climatic conditions, while also protecting the environment.
Holistic Management (HM) including Holistic Planned Grazing (HPG) can play a critical role in addressing these challenges.
The UK is natural pasture land
In agricultural terms, most of the UK is best suited to pastoral farming of one type or another. For instance, steep hillside fields are highly susceptible to erosion if ploughed up for annual crops.
A lot of land lacks sufficient soil depth for arable farming, or is at too high an altitude, and hence too cold for crops to grow well. Many westerly areas get too much rain for cereal crops, which thrive on warm, dry summers to ripen the grain.
Even in areas where intensive arable systems are possible, forward looking farmers like Tim May are converting their estates 'back' to mixed farming to reap the benefits which diverse production systems including wisely managed pasture can endow.
In Tim's case he is making use of insights not available 100 years ago when mixed farming was still the norm, monitoring the results to optimize interventions.
Allan Savory's insights on pasture management - which apply especially to semi-arid rangelands - have come to mainstream attention via his TED Talk. But many people are still unaware that the practices which benefit 'brittle climate' ecosystems are also relevant in temperate climes such as ours.
The UK's pioneer land managers
Fortunately there are already pioneer farmers in the UK, practicing HPG and demonstrating that in only a few years carefully planned systems can have impressive beneficial impact.
The archetypal UK pastoral scene involves fields under 'set-stocking' or 'extensive' management. Some farmers have moved on to strip grazing or 'New Zealand' methods. These have increased production - but at the expense of biodiversity, and certainly without making any contribution to alleviating flood problems.
Holistic Planned Grazing can mitigate both flooding and drought, as well as increase grass productivity, biodiversity across genera, and animal welfare.
Read more from our affiliate, Ecologist.
Pasture image via Shutterstock.