NFFN, Vidacycle and Nicole Masters

NFFN, Vidacycle and Nicole Masters 3276 3312 Soilmentor

Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) & Soilmentor Webinar with Nicole Masters

In this webinar, Nicole Masters (brilliant agro-ecologist and author of ‘For the Love of Soil’) coaches three farmers from the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) Soil Health Initiative using Soilmentor and their Regen Indicator results. NFFN are working with The Nature Recovery project to help farmers transition to regenerative agriculture. They are collecting results and observations with Soilmentor and using the Regen Platform to guide the improvement of their soils. Nicole dives into their specific farm contexts, challenges, and shares how small shifts can change the entire soil ecosystem of a farm.

First, Nicole speaks to farmer Charles Paynter, whose Regen Indicator dashboard shows recordings taken on a winter wheat field, a winter barley field and a hay ley field, all on chalky boulder clay soil. These arable fields soil structures were compacted, with slow infiltration rates, and we learn that the compaction here has lead to limited air space, and therefore less microbial activity. Nicole advises Charles to limit use of ammonia nitrates and artificial inputs to avoid stunting fungal network growth and soil microbial community building. Instead, Nicole suggests bio-priming seeds by planting them with compost and natural bio-stimulants. Looking at Charles’s photos recorded on Soilmentor, Nicole can see that his grassland soil system is starting to rebuild itself, benefitted greatly by the presence of the deep rooting grass, adding structure and attracting worms.

Next, Nicole speaks to Stephen Selley, who has been restoring ponds and grassland to support populations of Great Crested Newts breeding in the area. Stephen’s fields show low rooting depth, long infiltration rates, very limited rhizosheaths and few earthworms. Nicole advises seeding a diverse cover crop mix including deep-rooting chicory into the soil, to create a deeper soil structure, aid in infiltration, bring diversity into the field and help with compaction.

Finally, Nicole chats to Martin Lines, CEO of NFFN, to discuss reducing cultivations, suppressing weeds, and cover crops. The two fields Nicole examined with Martin were a large arable field currently in production, and a field in its third year of herbal ley due to a previous weed burden. Martin has been experimenting with letting livestock graze both fields for added nitrogen. Both of these fields had poor infiltration rates; Martin has previously tried bio-stimulants for the soil, however found that they didn’t increase root growth, which is his main aim for increasing infiltration rate. Nicole advises that each soil system will suffer if there is a problem with any of the ‘three Ms’: microbiome, mineral imbalance or (organic) matter. Martin’s fields however don’t require pesticide use, as they have found plenty of predatory insects keeping pest populations under control. Martin has also found that after applying a layer of straw mulch to his fields alongside fungicide, the straw breaks down a lot slower than without a fungicide application.

We love seeing how farmers using Soilmentor can learn from their observations using the Regen Platform, or by sharing their results remotely to consultants and coaches.

Get in touch with us at info@vidacycle.com if you are interested in using Soilmentor with your farming network or organisation!