Frost, David (2001) Organic Farming at ADAS PwllPeiran 1993 - 2001. .
Agriculture at Pwllpeiran has a long history. Pwllpeiran was eventually established as an Experimental Husbandry Farm in 1955. During the following forty years, work at the farm achieved substantial improvements in the quality and quantity of lamb and beef produced, but by the turn of the millennium the emphasis of agricultural policy was turning away from increased livestock production per se and towards the development of environmentally sensitive farming systems.
The 1,118 ha Pwllpeiran Research Farm is now managed by ADAS Wales. The land is rented from the National Assembly for Wales and the Forestry Commission. All of the land is under a ‘whole farm’ Environmentally Sensitive Area agreement.
The results from the Pwllpeiran unit underline the difficulties of organic farming in a severely disadvantaged upland area. The unit’s performance demonstrates the potential for production of organic lamb and beef but it also indicates some of the limitations on organic production.
Organic farming theory and practice developed primarily in the lowlands and on mixed farms and these origins remain clearly evident in current standards for organic agriculture. Farming in the hills and uplands is, however, in many ways distinct. The lack of opportunity to grow arable crops, the difficulties of growing legumes such as clover and the shortages of farmyard manure, organic fertilisers and farm produced feed all represent particular challenges to the organic hill farm. At Pwllpeiran, production has been constrained by declining soil fertility which in turn has had an adverse effect on grass / clover production and thus on herbage availability and forage conservation. The system operated to date has not produced enough FYM to maintain soil nutrient levels in all of the organic pastures, a major constraint on the level of production. This leads to two important conclusions regarding organic farming in the uplands. The first is the importance of regular and systematic soil sampling to identify possible nutrient deficiencies. The second is the need for sector bodies to recognise that organic farming in severely disadvantaged high rainfall hill areas may require more regular input of permitted P and K fertilisers than lowland and mixed farms. Without such inputs production levels are likely to fall in the medium to long-term and more work needs to done on the best method of supplying these nutrients to the organic hill farm.
At Pwllpeiran the decision was taken to accept a lower stocking rate on the organic unit, and to maintain financial performance by generating extra income from ESA agri environment payments and organic premiums. The unit’s experience demonstrates that combining organic farming with environmental conservation schemes on the mountain farm may add to the unit’s income, but environmental prescriptions will also place further limits on production. The balance of advantages to the organic hill farm offered by entry into an environmental management scheme needs to be weighed carefully.
The future viability of the Pwllpeiran organic unit depends on maintaining farm income levels by optimising herbage and forage production and utilisation, and by controlling input costs, and producing quality beef and lamb. The impact of other factors like market prices, global trade and government policy will prove equally important. Control of these lies beyond the farm gate.
|Keywords:||Pwllpeiran, upland, performance, lamb, beef, economics|
|Subjects:|| Animal husbandry > Production systems > Sheep and goats|
Animal husbandry > Production systems > Beef cattle
Farming Systems > Farm economics
|Research affiliation:||UK > ADAS|
|Deposited By:||Powell, Ms Jane|
|Deposited On:||19 Jun 2007|
|Last Modified:||12 Apr 2010 07:35|
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