The urgency to introduce sustainable practices on dairy farms has by no means been larger than in recent times, and with COP27 at present underway, there’s loads of discuss local weather change and the impression of agriculture.
Dairy producers have been adopting local weather roadmaps and pledging net-zero commitments of varied varieties, however alongside local weather mitigation practices, extra consciousness must be raised about biodiversity.
Honest to Nature, a scheme designed to enhance wildlife by encouraging UK farming communities to dedicate part of their farmland to biodiversity habitats, goals to reverse wildlife decline within the UK. This system is supported by the Royal Society for the Safety of Birds (RSPB) – though it is about reversing the lack of all species, not simply birds – and is the one UK-based certification scheme that has achieved leads to reversing wildlife loss in farming. It was obtainable to arable farmers solely however has been prolonged to different farmers together with dairy in a bid to spice up biodiversity throughout bigger swathes of UK farmland.
Biodiversity: What can farmers achieve?
Biodiversity loss can have an adversarial impression on farming, because the disappearance of key ecosystems can disrupt agricultural productiveness. In dairy, rising biodiversity may also help enhance soil high quality and forage manufacturing, which is essential for milk high quality and manufacturing.
On prime of that, farmers can profit via affiliation with the scheme – Honest to Nature is at present in talks with main retailers over the distribution of licensed merchandise, we have been informed, and every product from a licensed producer would carry an on-pack emblem that signifies this to the buyer – akin to the Honest Commerce certification scheme. That would additionally put them a step forward of the competitors if producers are searching for nature-friendly suppliers.
While these plans are nonetheless within the works, the drive to draw extra farmers to the scheme is the main target of the marketing campaign proper now.
“We are attempting to make the scheme obtainable to as many farmers and types throughout the nation as we are able to, as a result of we all know that by being efficient on administration of chemical compounds alongside efficient habitat administration is what’s essential to reverse biodiversity,” Mark Varney, head of Honest to Nature, informed DairyReporter.
What the certification course of entails
To take part, farmers should adhere to a algorithm that comprise the usual – and that are primarily based on evolving scientific analysis from the RSPB and different organizations.
The 2 key areas to make sure compliance regard dedicating at the least 10% of farmland for habitats and the second is to do with sustainable administration of inputs and soils. “The usual requires the suitable administration inputs, reminiscent of fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides,” defined Varney. “Dairy and livestock farmers may mix grass lays with clover of their rotation, or different natural lays.”
Every farmer who needs to take part will likely be visited by a educated RSPB farm conservation adviser, who will assess what must be finished to achieve compliance. “Some farms that we go to have already got the appropriate habitats in place, and so we’re capable of certify them fairly rapidly,” Varney mentioned. “For others, we’d advocate adjustments to how their farm is managed – it may very well be to do with their natural mixes, or with hedge-growing. The usual will not be prescriptive as there are alternative ways to realize what’s wanted, and that’s finished in partnership with the advisor.”
As soon as assessed and authorized, farmers want to stick to the steps agreed with the assessor, and may start buying and selling as Honest to Nature meals producers. Their efficiency will likely be audited to make sure continued compliance.
This might sound like so much, however many farmers have already been partaking in related stewardship interventions such because the Sustainable Farming Incentive, Varney argued. “We may use the plans that farmers have submitted to help that from an administrative viewpoint,” he added.
The price of signing up as a farmer is ‘a number of hundred kilos and never into the 1000’s’ in accordance with Varney – simply sufficient to cowl an advisor’s payment and make a contribution to the price of the scheme.
Sustainable advantages and rising client consciousness
Bolstering wildlife habitats may additionally result in carbon reductions and allow farms to function extra sustainably. “If, for instance, extra hedges are grown on a farm and extra margins are put into fields, this may very well be a constructive consequence for local weather in addition to nature. If a farmer introduces clover into their combine, that can improve the fertility of the soil and cut back the quantity of fertilizer they should use – significantly while you see such fluctuating world costs – which may even cut back their carbon impression.”
Biodiversity is more and more essential to shoppers, too, says Varney. “Consciousness round nature and biodiversity is smaller than maybe local weather change, but it surely’s rising fairly rapidly in accordance with client knowledge,” he mentioned. “We have COP15 biodiversity convention happening in Montreal in December, and we’re anticipating a rise round consciousness of biodiversity within the subsequent few months and years. For farmers and for manufacturers particularly, responding to that client expectation can be fairly essential.”
Essentially, nevertheless, ‘we’re in a pure disaster’, he added. Within the UK, nearly half of farmland birds, mammals, amphibians, bugs and invertebrates have disappeared, together with 97% of wildflower meadows. “We have not finished sufficient to reply to the character disaster,” Varney mentioned. “We have to try this, as a result of with out nature there isn’t a meals. With out the pollinators, with out these ecosystem companies, with out soil and water, there isn’t a meals. This is not solely about being good to nature – that is about being good to ourselves.”
Farmers and producers can enquire concerning the initiative proper now from the Honest to Nature web site, and there’s no deadline for collaborating within the drive. “The one deadline is the urgency for us to do one thing as a farming system and as a society,” Varney concluded. “In any other case, we’re not restricted on when farmers can be a part of – any farmer can be a part of at any level.”