Iain Wilkinson: 0788 596 7495 balgayfarm@gmail.com

Sustainable mixed farming

Building soil structure for the future

 

Minimum processed input

Maximum organic Matter

Farming for tomorrow 

As farmers, we are custodians of the land with the responsibility to improve the soil and protect the wildlife for the generations that follow. At Balgay we have come a long way in the past ten years and are in a process of continuous improvement in our drive towards creating a model sustainable, minimal input farm.  The importance of regenerating our soils using natural methods wherever possible, is at the foreground of our thinking. 

Work in progress

Building soil structure: mixed farming and crop rotation

Mixed farming and crop rotation are two of the key components to improving our soil health.

The soil on the Carse of Gowrie is heavy, comprised of fine alluvial soil, and presents its own set of challenges. The grazing of livestock has been a major contributor in improving the soil structure, making it easier to work with and delivering higher yields.

Grass plays a critical role in our rotation and we continue to experiment with herbal leys, bringing diversity of species to break up the pan, reduce the impact of drought and add key nutrients and minerals to the soil. 

Helping the birds and the bees

Like many of our neighbours, we have created areas for wildlife to thrive, with a minimum 3m wild margin at the pows (large ditches). This helps us protect the water quality and leaves areas for wildlife to nest and forage.

Our hedgerow planting continues on an ongoing basis to provide an areas for nesting and sheltering using mixed hedges, ideally suited to the task.

We also have dedicated areas where we plant bird seed mixtures on EFA ground.

By planting different crops and herbal lays across the farm, we have increased the variety of nectar for the bees.

 

Reducing waste

  • Using the sheds at Balgay, we have installed 100KW of solar power on the roof.
  • Investment in GPS technology in our machinery ensures that we only fertilise and seed where necessary.
  • By sampling the soil, we know which areas are lacking key minerals and nutrients. We tackle this in a number of ways including the use of cover crops, crop rotation or nitrogen fixing crops like red clover, only using fertiliser when absolutely necessary.

The GPS mapping and soil sampling also have the added benefit of reduced diesel wastage.

 

Experimentation 

We believe the ideal future lies with organic, minimal imput farming. Much has to change to enable this and we are currently experimenting in two principal areas of herbal leys and direct drilling. Direct drilling presents a particular challenge with for the wet Scottish climate and we are keen to hear from others who might be operating in this area. 

Direct Drilling

We are currently trailing Direct drilling or ‘no-till’ as an alternative to ploughing. Direct drilling has its challenges and we are still in the learning process. However, if successful, it offers many benefits over traditional plough-based systems of crop establishment, including:

  • lower energy inputs
  • less wear and tear on machinery
  • improved soil structure and less risk of damage from machinery
  • less soil compaction
  • reduced soil erosion and runoff
  • increased beneficial invertebrates and earthworms
  • decreased mineralisation of nitrogen and reduced leaching risk.