As a part of their Grantham Centre training programme, a group of Grantham Scholars recently visited the Allerton Project. The project researches the effects of different farming methods on wildlife and the environment, sharing results of their research through advisory and educational activities. One of the Scholars, Ghada Sasi, shared her experience of the visit with us.
Our visit to the Allerton Project was with the Grantham Centre Chief Business Advisor, Dr Richard Bruce. The event was about alternative farming methods to improve sustainability, and its relevance in reducing reliance on inorganic fertilizers. The Allerton Project is located near the small village of Loddington in Leicestershire, the former home of Lord and Lady Allerton who bought the estate in 1934.
The event started with a nice welcoming from Allerton staff: Alice Midmer, Assistant Project Manager, and Dr Jenny Bussell, Soil Scientist at Allerton.
Alice gave a nice introduction talk about the impact on farming caused by climate change, air and water pollution. She discussed causes of biodiversity loss (for example moths), and recent statistics of the impact of greenhouse gas (GHGs) on the UK farming.
The second talk was from Dr Bussell. She talked about their cutting-edge soil carbon research, sharing some data of measuring soil organic carbon, and the future challenges of sustainable farming such as policy, finance and lack of standards and incentives for livestock.
Many of these important findings are shared through publication in peer-reviewed journals. The centre also provides training and certificate in Sustainable Land Management that might interest many of the people searching to adopt sustainable practices.
During our farm walk, we have seen an AB3 beetle bank, for nesting and forage habitats for pollinators, small mammals, some birds, and beneficial insects which can create good habitat for crop pest, predators, and other invertebrates. I was interested to observe many hedgehog monitoring cameras collecting live data. Later on we were introduced to Syngenta which is one of the Allerton Project’s partnerships. It involves a five-years evaluation of agriculture principles within a full cereals-based cropping rotating system.
One of Dr Bussell’s research interests is biochar, a charcoal-like material that is produced from plant matter and is stored in the soil. She explained that biochar is a substance that can remain stable for many years, and there are several current studies looking to evaluate its use in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
During the visit, we enjoyed walking in a farmland grazed by domesticated livestock. And plots of land that have been untouched for 10 years, in order to collect some ecological data such as biodiversity and carbon storage.
Personally, I found my trip to the Allerton Project deeply inspiring and I believe my colleagues in the Grantham Centre share the same opinion. Thanks to everyone who works in this project to protect the environment and to enhance local ecosystems for a sustainable future.
The main image shows the Grantham Scholars, Dr Jenny Bussell and Dr Richard Bruce
Credit for all images: Ghada Sasi