Our Path to a Sustainable Future at Leckford Estate

01 May 2024

Nestled in the serene Test Valley, Leckford Estate spans a breathtaking 2,800 acres dedicated to nurturing nature and championing sustainable practices. As stewards of this land, our mission is clear: to minimise our environmental footprint while unlocking the land's potential for future generations.

A New Dawn in Farming

For two decades, Leckford Estate has embraced integrated farm management, focusing on integrated crop management (ICM) and witnessing remarkable regenerative outcomes. Our journey towards enhancing soil organic matter has improved soil health and significantly contributed to carbon sequestration. As we delve deeper into regenerative farming practices, we aim to further reduce our dependency on synthetic inputs and fossil fuels, capturing even more carbon.

The Heart of Regenerative Farming

Regenerative agriculture is more than a set of farming practices; it's a philosophy aimed at revitalising our ecosystem. It strongly emphasises soil health, water management, and biodiversity, fostering a symbiotic relationship with nature. This approach aims to sustain and rejuvenate, ensuring a fertile and vibrant earth for future generations.

Our 5 Pillars to Regenerative Farming

1. Minimising Soil Disruption:

At the core of our strategy is the minimisation of soil disruption. Traditional ploughing methods are known for their detrimental effects on soil health, including erosion, loss of organic matter, and disruption of soil microbiota. To counter this, we adopt strip-till and no-till farming methods for planting our crops, significantly reducing soil upheaval.

This practice preserves the soil structure, enhances water infiltration and retention, reduces erosion, and helps maintain soil organic carbon levels. Furthermore, we achieve considerable diesel savings by decreasing the need for soil manipulation, contributing to our sustainability goals.

2. Promoting Crop Diversity:

Diversity is a hallmark of resilient ecosystems. In line with this, our agricultural model incorporates an extensive 12-year crop rotation plan, fostering greater crop diversity. This diversity is critical in reducing reliance on synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, as different crops contribute to soil organic matter accumulation and disrupt pest and disease cycles.

Additionally, this strategy enhances the overall resilience of our ecosystem, making it more adaptable to climatic variations and other environmental stresses.

3. Incorporating Livestock:

The strategic integration of livestock into our crop rotation system magnifies the benefits of our regenerative farming practices. Livestock grazing on herbal leys and winter cover crops plays a crucial role in nutrient cycling, reducing our dependency on commercial fertilisers.

Additionally, livestock contributes to soil aeration and incorporating organic matter through their natural activities. Beyond the benefits to soil health, incorporating livestock also aids in cultivating biodiversity, especially in areas unsuitable for arable farming, such as water meadows and rich chalk grasslands.

4. Maintaining Soil Coverage:

An exposed soil surface is vulnerable to erosion and nutrient runoff, which can harm soil health and water quality. We meticulously plan our crop rotation and integrate short-term cover crops to combat this. This ensures that our soil is never left bare, safeguarding it against erosion and helping maintain essential nutrients. Cover crops also play a significant role in enhancing soil structure and fertility, promoting the activity of beneficial soil organisms.

5. Ensuring Continuous Root Presence:

Our objectives extend beyond merely preventing soil exposure; we aim to maintain continuous plant growth within our soil throughout the year. This approach is crucial for maintaining soil structure and health. Year-round root presence promotes soil microbial life, essential for nutrient recycling and enhancing soil structure. This continuous cycle of growth and decay fosters a vibrant, living soil capable of supporting diverse plant life.

Our Journey towards Sustainability

Our regenerative farming practices are our response to the challenges of modern agriculture. By focusing on soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem resilience, we're not only working towards our goal of carbon net zero but also contributing to climate change mitigation, environmental conservation, and sustainable food production. Our practices showcase a sustainable path forward, aligning farming with ecological principles.

We believe in the power of community engagement in preserving biodiversity. Through volunteering and conservation efforts, we invite everyone to join us in this sustainable journey.

Looking Ahead: Green Horizons

Our commitment to sustainability is unwavering, and ambitious targets are set for the near future. By 2035, we aim to achieve net zero carbon emissions across all operations, with a significant milestone in 2028 to convert all our heavy trucks to biomethane fuel. These efforts, including the innovative use of biomethane at our farm, underscore our commitment to combating climate change and promoting environmental stewardship.

Join us at Leckford Estate, where sustainability is a way of life. Together, we can forge a brighter, more sustainable future.

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