Nature-friendly farming delivers for wildlife, climate and profits, charity says
Nature-friendly farming can deliver for wildlife, carbon storage and profits, the National Trust has said after an audit of a farm run by the conservation charity.
Wimpole Home Farm is a 1,419-acre mixed arable and livestock farm near Cambridge, which has been run using organic, wildlife-friendly and sustainable farming methods for the past 12 years, the Trust said.
A full “health check” of Wimpole’s wildlife and how it is storing carbon has revealed benefits for the environment, as well as public access through a network of footpaths and financial returns from growing food.
Wimpole Home Farm is managed using organic farming and other measures to boost wildlife and store carbon including planting hedgerows, creating flower-rich field margins, planting cover crops and reducing cultivation.
Surveys of Wimpole have revealed that numbers of rare skylarks, in decline in the wider countryside, have nearly doubled since 2013, from 12 to 21 pairs, while the number of linnets has increased from three to seven pairs.
Wimpole is also an important site for corn buntings in Cambridgeshire, with between five and eight pairs breeding each year, and the farm provides winter feeding habitat for other threatened birds grey partridges, lapwings and hen harriers.
A total of 1,145 invertebrates such as bees, ants and butterflies were found in a survey – a 38% boost in the number of species since 2003 – which are vital for pollinating crops and preying on pests – the Trust said.
They included 95 rare species such as the large garden bumblebee and the cinnabar moth.
The team at Wimpole also conducted a carbon audit of the farm, which found measures to manage the soil, alongside tree planting and managing woods and hedges, helped the landscape soak up 2,260 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
While the Trust acknowledges the livestock emit greenhouse gas emissions, Callum Weir, farm manager at Wimpole, said animals were the “perfect tool” to manage Grade I listed parkland and traditional hay meadows.
If that land were ploughed up for arable farming, it would release large amounts of carbon, he said, adding: “If meat is produced in the right way and consumed in the right amounts, it can be sustainable.”
Mr Weir said: “We want to farm sustainably at the same time as being a truly viable business and it’s fantastic to see how nature-friendly farming and a profitable farm business can go hand in hand.”
Much of the boost to wildlife was down to the combination of organic farming and the field margins, hedges and habitat around each field, Mr Weir said, though he added that organic farming was not the only way to farm with nature.