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Conservation agriculture showcase for African students at Courteenhall Farms

Conservation agriculture showcase for African students at Courteenhall Farms

This year’s cohort of Marshal Papworth short course students were treated to an example of conservation agriculture at its best at the 3000 acre Courteenhall Farms, Courteenhall, Northamptonshire, where farm manager Charlie Reynolds, pairs precision agriculture with conservation to work towards the enterprise’s aim of excellence in business and environmental biodiversity. The farm also contract farms a further 1,200 acres including the Reynolds family farm at Brigstock.

The students, who are currently in the last month of their 10 week practical agricultural course at Moulton College, Northamptonshire, saw first-hand how conservation practices as part of a Mid-Tier agri-environmental agreement, can combine different elements of estate enterprises to increase worm numbers, reduce soil compaction, increase water percolation, encourage native wildlife and increase yields and therefore productivity.

By targeting low-yielding areas of the farm with a heavy blackgrass burden and growing 19 hectares of wild bird mixes, 40 hectares of legume fallows, 10 ½ hectares of wildflower plots, buffer strips around watercourses, and 2500 metres of new hedgerows, the Estate team, including gamekeeper of 13 years Will Moynan, can successfully rear 6,000 game birds, a key element of the enterprise’s income mix, whilst reducing the spread of yield-reducing blackgrass, increasing organic matter in the soil to between 4% and 10%, and vastly increasing the insect, bird and bee populations. Will said: “We have also seen four new pairs of nesting barn owls and up to 70 hares, having not seen any on the farm before.”

Marshal Papworth student Victorine Atieno, a farm co-operative manager from Kenya, was very impressed by the Estate’s ability to use conservation methods to improve commercial productivity whilst making a more sustainable farm for future generations. “In my work I help to make co-operative farms more productive, and seeing how sustainable conservation methods can be used to improve soil quality in particular is definitely something that I will take back with me.” She continued: “We have been very fortunate to be given this opportunity to not only learn sustainable agriculture in theory, but to also see first-hand how those learnings are put into practice on the ground and we will all take these practices home to improve agriculture for our communities.”

This year’s short course students at Moulton College are amongst the 184 students that the Marshal Papworth Fund has supported to date, equipping them with practical and sustainable agricultural solutions to enable communities in developing countries in growing themselves out of hunger. In order to continue these opportunities for students from the developing countries and benefit more communities, the charity relies on donations from individuals and businesses. To find out more and to make a donation contact Sandra Lauridsen on 01733 363514 or email slauridsen@eastofengland.org.uk for more information.

 

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