A major advantage of the type of farm system we operate at Bagthorpe is that the rotation creates a mosaic of crops that support a rich diversity of plants, invertebrates, bird and mammals. The presence of grass leys with our farming system is key to the success of many farmland bird species particularly grey partridge and finch species such as linnets; also brown hares, bats and a broad range of soil invertebrate species are hosted on our farm.
Grey partridge coveys for example utilise grass leys in winter months, whilst bats are drawn to high numbers of insect fauna using grassland within their life cycles. The presence of clover is also crucial to many pollinating insects, particularly bees in their complex life cycles.
In addition the organic management of leys ensures an increased number of soil invertebrates including earthworms, thus providing a sustained food resource for species higher up the food chain such as song birds, small mammals, bats and birds of prey. These all prey on invertebrates that would otherwise be pests within the organic cycle thus keeping a natural balance of these populations.
Other species of birds commonly found at Bagthorpe include oyster catchers and lapwings.Indeed we often have to leave bits of land unplanted with crops to avoid disturbing these birds nesting!
We have several fields in ‘arable reversion to grassland’ schemes (Countryside Stewardship Scheme) meaning that they are not cropped, rather they are allowed to undergo a natural regeneration to grassland.
As well as maintaining extensive field margins we also have established beetle banks in the centre of a couple of our large fields. This allows predatory insects to spread from the over-wintering sites on the field margins into the centre to prevent the build up of pests. They are also utilised by grey partridge, skylarks and corn bunting both for nesting and feeding.
We are also blessed at Bagthorpe with 150 acres of woodland, made up of over twenty different sites. The woodland is a mixture of deciduous trees and some areas of conifer. We have many ancient Oaks, Beech and Ash trees, as well as Chestnuts and Sycamores.
The woodland as well as providing natural habitat for many species it is acts as a carbon sink, ensuring that we have a positive carbon footprint.
Indeed we recently undertook a Carbon Footprint audit and discovered that our total emissions of CO2 (including the methane and nitrous oxide equivalent tonnage) was 307 tonnes annually, whereas thanks to our farming practices (reduction of artificial fertilisers on the organically farmed area) and the woodland we actually sequester 669 tonnes of CO2 annually, meaning we are in credit!
Despite this we are striving to improve our energy usage and efficiency. We are also working on Water Efficiency program to ensure we are irrigating our crops efficiently and effectively.
Last year (June 2009) we undertook a full Farm Energy and Emission audit performed by the Organic Research Centre at Elm Farm. The report concluded that Bagthorpe Farm is a good example of a sustainable and diverse farming system sequestering more carbon than we emit. However much scope for improvement is there across all areas of the farm. The challenge is making these improvements happen as the inefficiencies are sometimes difficult to see.
If you would like to learn more by reading our full Environmental Policy please do not hesitate to get in touch and we can send you it.