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What is Biological Farming and what role has it to play in the future of food?

Biological Farming works with natural systems and processes to build optimum soil, plant and animal health, while also incorporating the best of "conventional" farming methods to maintain production levels and quality.

We recently attended the thought-provoking Biological Farming Conference which links in very well to the current trend in mainstream agriculture that is soil health and sustainable farming. The current new CAP being negotiated is very likely to be centred around agriculture protecting its soils which will in turn help maintain and improve current water quality through the introduction of many environmental schemes. Agriculture takes a lot of blame for poor water quality due to leaching of nitrates and phosphorus from the soil into streams and rivers. These schemes will be needed if the agriculture sector is to play its part in the future of protecting the countries soil and water quality among other climate change issues.

Barley SunsetOne may ask how Biological Farming can help. Firstly, we need to define what Biological farming is. The 2 definitions below define biological farming in a simple and comprehensive fashion

“Biological Farming combines the best of conventional and organic farming with an emphasis on attaining naturally productive soils that display high levels of biological activity. The main purpose is to maximize the activity of soil microbes through the provision of good soil nutrition and structure, together with adequate supplies of energy, air and water

Or

“Biological Farming works with natural systems and processes to build optimum soil, plant and animal health, while also incorporating the best of “conventional” farming methods to maintain production levels and quality. Ultimately, it also looks for outcomes in food nutrition and improved ecosystems health.”

How can this help us to farm and produce quality food sustainably into the future?

  • Returns the soil to a balanced living system, improving soil structure and fertility especially through nutrient recycling of organic ferts such as compost and cover crops.
  • Reduces our dependency on chemicals which is becoming all the more important as we lose many active ingredients through ever more stringent registration of current and new actives, while at the same time increasing yields, quality, soil fertility and profitability.
  • Restores the mineral and microbial balance in the soil and increases soil carbon levels
  • Increases water holding capacity of the soil by growing cover crops and not leaving land fallow over the winter periods coupled with reduced tillage operations at appropriate times
  • Reduces disease levels, insect and pests. These are becoming more resistant to chemicals. Soil health and soil nutrition will need to play a more important role in providing an environment that encourages beneficia’s that in turn will help reduce all these pressures.
  • Application of foliar products that will improve plant which will all in turn improve soil health through recycling of nutrients which in turn will feed the soil microbiome
  • Reduces the leaching of nitrogen and phosphorus into our waterways. Currently it’s calculated that we only utilize up to only 50- 60% of the Nitrogen, 20% of P and 40% of K that we apply.
  • Aids in the production of nutrient dense food for animals and humans
  • Leaves our soil in a healthy balanced state for future generations.

There is certainly a big movement and push in this direction, but much has to be learned and understood as we move together as soil is a very varied and complex beast.

For more information and advice, be sure to contact one of the RED MILLS agronomy team or call into our Agri Super Store in Cillin Hill.

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  • cereals
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  • soil
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  • winter barley
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  • Winter oilseed rape
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