Andrew Howard is a no-till farmer from Ashford in Kent where he farms combinable crops (winter wheat, winter barley, spring oats, winter and spring field beans, winter triticale and spring linseed) and rents out land for a solar farm.
After moving back to the family farm in 2003, Andrew became more and more interested in soils and Regenerative Agriculture and says that looking after their soils is his number one farming priority.
Andrew describes himself as an unconventional farmer, and accredits soil as his main asset. During his talk, he referred to all farmers as soil managers, and it was hard to disagree with the examples that he gave throughout his presentation.
During his talk, Andrew questioned why fields of the same crops with the same genetics still as common as they were 50 years ago- haven’t we learnt anything in that period of time that has allowed us to move on? We need to look to the past to move into the future.
Going on to discuss his travels during his Nuffield scholarship, Andrew gave the delegates plenty of examples of how intercropping has benefitted farmers around the world, from Canada to Australia to right here in Scotland.
Some examples of the intercropping ideas that Andrew has come across include:
- Planting flowering crops around the edge of the field to attract insects that are damaging to the main crop
- Strip intercropping can help to stop soil erosion
- Temporary intercropping wheat and radish, as the radish grows quickly, scavenges the nutrients and then acts as a natural fertiliser for the wheat in spring
- A full season of inter-cropping using different parts of the soil yielded 30% more production from wheat and peas than each alone
- Peaola (peas and canola (osr) grown in Canada- the osr acts as a trellis for the peas, so they’re not sat on the floor at harvest time, helping to prevent damage
- Spring beans and spring oats for weed control- the oats are good at scavenging nitrogen and with less than 15mg of nitrogen in the soil, weeds won’t germinate.
Andrew even explained to delegates that by intercropping, they could grow crops in Scotland that they never would have considered before.
A truly fascinating talk, we can’t thank Andrew enough for his time and sharing his experiences with everyone at LILIS. You can read Andrew’s Nuffield report here.