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New cropping system at Wild Ken Hill

Wild Ken Hill, the estate that is rewilding parts of its farmland in on the West Norfolk coastline, is introducing a new pasture cropping system with the aim of improving soil health.

For the 2022 harvest, half of the wheat rotation will regrown under a system known as pasture cropping, in which wheat is grown in strips with a mix of plants such as clover, legumes and grasses in between each strip. The plant mix is known as herbage lay, and it is proven to be beneficial to soil health as it returns important nutrients back into the soil.

The aim is to eradicate the need for fertilisers and pesticides because the variety of plants will prevent the growth of invasive species such as thistles. By planting in this way, there will also be no need to use a plough, a practice which disturbs the soil structure, damages its health and releases carbon dioxide into the environment.

Technology will play its part. To prevent the plants in the herbal ley from growing into and above the wheat, crowding it out, the team at Wild Ken Hill will use a new specialist tractor-powered mower, with 12 small strimmers on the front. Using satellite guidance that is accurate to 1-2cm, the mower can cut the herbal ley in between the strips of wheat. This means the wheat grows in a ‘polyculture system’ without the need of inputs and produces a healthy yield that can easily be harvested when it ripens.

Project manager Dominic Buscall said the new system was not just good for the environment but would also produce good quality grain that would command a good price. Combined with the fact that inputs – fertiliser and pesticides – would be reduced, then it was expected the crop would be more profitable than a conventionally grown crop.

Wild Ken Hill have worked with Wildfarmed to develop this system of regenerative farming on the West Norfolk estate.

Pic credit: Photo by Tim Matras on Unsplash