TIAH held its most recent team meeting at the Allerton Project. I joined TIAH in July as Head of Communications & Marketing. As the newest team member, I was excited to meet my colleagues face-to-face and take part in some shared CPD.
Set on a 320-hectare demonstration farm in the beautiful Leicestershire countryside, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Allerton Project explores the effects of different farming methods on wildlife and the environment to build farmland resilience.
After the important TIAH business of the day, we took a walk around the farm with Allerton’s knowledgeable Project Co-ordinator Nieves Lovatt.
First stop was the agroforestry plot. For several reasons, combining trees with livestock or crops has not been as widely adopted in the UK as in other parts of the world. The Allerton Project is looking at how it impacts on areas like grass yield and lamb production, tree canopy area, bird numbers and soil biology.
A moderately productive pasture field used for rearing lambs has been planted with trees at differing densities, to understand the impact of tree planting on pasture under a range of scenarios. This will help to inform future farming policy and practice.
Evidence from the work taking place at the Allerton Project already plays an important role in shaping policies and the way people farm.
Nieves gave us a fascinating insight into the project’s focus on songbirds, which has shown that successful conservation relies on a combination of factors like habitat management, winter feeding and legal predator control.
Trials on the farm have included providing perennial herbaceous vegetation; improving the management of arable soils; growing crops that provide seed food in winter; and control of nest predators. These have contributed in varying degrees to increasing numbers of birds such as yellowhammers, whitethroats, blackbirds, song thrushes and spotted flycatchers.
A shared ethos
It struck me that the Allerton project’s approach has strong parallels with TIAH’s. We are both looking to build resilience in food production through innovative thinking, continuous learning, collaboration and informing change through evidence.
We’re keen to continue to work with our colleagues at the project, and others who share this progressive outlook for the industry.