Virtual Field Day: Multispecies Leys

Thursday, 21 May 2020 - 11:30am


This virtual event is part 1 of a 2 part series in a collaboration between Agricology, FABulous Farmers, Duchy College, AgriTech Cornwall, FWAGSW and Rothamsted Research.

Multispecies leys combine complementary grass, legume and herb species. A more diverse sward can provide greater resilience to climate extremes, benefits for animal health, soil quality and biodiversity. Learning about multispecies leys is a work in progress and this two part series will provide opportunity to share the latest findings and practical experiences. Join farmers, advisors and researchers in the virtual field to share ideas and experiences. Join one or both!

Field day 1 - Introduction and establishing multispecies leys - 21st May

We will explore the practicalities around seed selection, establishment, management and benefits of multispecies leys, bringing together insights from farmers and researchers.

Key topics will include:

  • Species selection and mixtures
  • Stewardship options
  • Establishment and seed bed preparation
  • Weed control and management
  • Soil health / Carbon
This will be a 1.5 hour online discussion with contributions from: Farmers experimenting with multispecies leys, Becky Willson / Hannah Jones, Duchy College, Becky Hughes, FWAGSW, Deb Beaumont and Kate LeCoq, Rothamsted.

There will be time for questions and general discussion on practicalities and benefits for animal health, feed quality and resilience to climatic extremes etc. There will also be an opportunity for those who already have multi-species leys to share photos for a rapid analysis of species composition by a researcher - providing some useful insights on the day. This event is timed to tie in before the deadline to apply for Coutryside Stewardship application packs.

How do I join?

1. Register here to book your free place

2. We will send details and instructions to those registered before the event. It will be hosted as a meeting on the web platform Zoom. You can join in 2 ways:

  • On a laptop or mobile using the free to use Zoom platform which will enable video and chat function
  • Dial in from any landline or mobile to the call - but will not be able to see video or join in the chat

The second virtual field day will be held on 4th June 2020.


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Compost making with Jez Taylor - vlog

Compost can improve soil fertility through supplying mineral fertilisers such as potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen and it can help to strongly influence the soil carbon storage which is also an important factor of soil fertility.

Jez Taylor, head of the market garden at Daylesford Organic Farm shares his recipe for making compost. He talks us through his top tips and secret ingredients(!) for a healthy heap at each stage of the composting process:⠀

  • Air and moisture are key to the biological activity needed to breakdown organic matter and cellulose, so creating volume and containing your compost heap are both important.
  • Use a mixture of ingredients. Include materials that break down quickly; kitchen waste, grass cuttings, plant prunings and ash, with slow releasing materials that provide fibre, carbon and air pockets such as cardboard, eggshells and foliage.
  • Regular turning is key to speeding up the composting process. Indicators of a healthy heap include the presence of worms after approximately four months. After a year, the compost should be ready for a final sort and sieve before mixing and using.⠀


Healthy Grassland Soils pocketbook


This pocketbook is based on work conducted by SRUC, Newcastle University and ADAS as part of the AHDB Healthy Grassland Soils project. It was established to develop an industry-recognised method to assessing grassland soils and to provide guidance on soil biology.
With easy-to-follow guidelines and effective visuals, it provides information on assessing, maintaining and improving soil structure.
It covers surface assessment, soil extraction, soil type, how to identify soil structure, guidance on assessing your soil, and how to assign a score to the state of your soil. Detailed guidelines and photographs showing soil structure types accompany this.
It also covers management options for poor soil structures including surface slitting and sward lifting and ploughing, accompanied by management cost benefits.
It details preventative measures you can carry out including preventing livestock and machinery compaction, soil testing, maintaining field drainage, and improvements you can make to the biological activity in the soil.

  • The pocketbook accompanies the soil assessment tool ‘Healthy Grassland Soils - Four quick steps to assess soil structure.’
  • Soil compaction reduces grass growth, restricts nutrient uptake and drainage and increases water run-off, soil erosion, nutrient loss and weeds.
  • It is essential to routinely assess soil structure to combat soil compaction.
  • Following the soil assessment steps outlined in this guide will help you identify potential problems and solutions.
  • The management options describe actions you can carry out, environmental benefits, and likely returns and financial costs.
  • Soil tests will help you ascertain whether or not it is soil structure that is limiting yields and quality.
  • Good soil structure will not resolve wet areas of your fields if water cannot drain away; it is therefore vital that you address field drainage issues.
  • Soil biological activity can help improve soil structure and be an indicator of soil health.
  • Keeping soil covered with crops for as long as possible helps increase soil organic matter content and reduces erosion and surface water run-off.
  • You need to maintain the nutrient levels and pH of the soil to ensure good root activity.
  • The pocketbook includes some useful field record sheets that you can use.

Download the PDF


Increasing grassland species improves pollination and yields


Science for Environment Policy

Grasslands cover 30–40% of European agricultural areas. Agri-environmental schemes leading to even small changes in grassland biodiversity could elicit extensive benefits. A new study on working farms in southwest England highlights the contribution of the plant diversity of the grassland to the abundance and diversity of insect pollinators and their potential to increase crop yields. The researchers make recommendations for which species to include in seed mixes.
Practical management options for grasslands are critical if the Common Agricultural Policy’s priority to promote sustainable farming is to be realised. This study aimed to investigate how the number (and type) of plant species in a pasture and how a pasture is managed affects the diversity and function of insect pollinators over time. The study also sought to identify grassland species that show the greatest effects on insect pollinator abundance and diversity. Finally, the impact of plant species richness to pollination of crop and wildflower species was investigated.

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Tractor found parked up ‘with its engine running and no one in it’

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Written by Agriland Team

A tractor was left running and unattended while its driver was in a nearby shop buying lunch, a local police team in the UK have noted, highlighting the risks involved with such an action.

The unattended tractor was discovered by members of Dorset Police, outside a Tesco store in Blandford Forum, in England, last Thursday (October 15).

Taking to social media to highlight the matter, Dorset Police said:

When we visited Tesco’s in Blandford we didn’t expect to find a £110,000 [€121,800] tractor parked up near the entrance with its engine running and no one with it.
“We soon located the driver leaving Tesco’s with a meal deal.

“There’s absolutely...