Kelvin Cave Ltd is delighted to be working alongside PGRO with a consortium of industry, farming and research partners in a major, new initiative which aims to cut soya imports for animal feed in half and has been described as the ‘defining project of our time’.
The drive to cut soya from livestock rations is at the forefront of many producers’ minds but the lack of an evidence base to guide how best to achieve this has slowed down the switch to home-grown alternatives.
But that’s all set to change as an ambitious new £5.9 million project, funded by Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme and delivered by Innovate UK, is launched. It aims to slash farming’s carbon footprint by increasing the UK’s acreage of legumes in arable rotations four-fold, (to 20%), and developing and testing new home-grown protein feeds.
This two-pronged approach will help in this NCS (Nitrogen Efficient Plants for Climate Smart Arable Cropping Systems) project’s aim of substituting up to 50% of imported soya meal used in animal feed with more climate-friendly, home-grown pulses and legumes.
And through these initiatives, the ultimate goal is to reduce the emissions from farming by a hefty 1.5 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per annum. This would make a substantial dent in the reduction targets already set for farming.
Kelvin Cave involvement Aspirations of this kind have been a priority at Kelvin Cave Ltd for many years, and the company has been at the forefront of developing techniques for preserving a range of pulses for livestock feed.
But this ambition has been stepped up with the company’s involvement with this NCS initiative where it will work with industry, farming and research partners with the project leaders, the PGRO (Processors and Growers Research Organisation).
“Everyone knows that pulses and legumes have considerable benefits for UK farming systems,” says PGRO Chief Executive, Roger Vickers, who leads the NCS consortium. “But these have never been truly and accurately measured. So, their value has been sorely underplayed and their potential to address the climate crisis has gone unrecognised.
“Together we can change that. We now have the science, the tools and the know-how among UK farmers, not only to tap into that potential, but to develop it further. Bringing that talent together is what lies at the heart of NCS – it’s never been done before, and there’s never been a project on this scale with this much ambition.”
Technical director at Kelvin Cave Ltd, Michael Carpenter, adds: “We have worked with PGRO over many years to champion increased use of home-grown or locally sourced proteins in ruminant diets and develop innovative solutions to processing, preserving and feeding them as we firmly believe this approach will not only improve farm profitability but also bring huge environmental benefits. So, we are absolutely delighted to have been invited to work with PGRO and other partners on this important project.
“Within the project, our company, supported by leading independent scientists, will focus on the harvesting, processing and storage of protein crops and will undertake trials ranging from forage harvester efficiency, comparison of current analytical processes to ensure accurate reporting of feed value, and additive efficiency trials for both wholecropped and combined legumes.
“Meanwhile, other partners within our work package will investigate processes including toasting and de-hulling and feeding these forms to all classes of stock.”
These and other ambitions will be steered by science, but proven by farmers, through a series of paid-for on-farm trials and Kelvin Cave customers are urged to follow the company on social media where they will find links to the project pages.
The stages of the project
The first stage of the project will give 200 UK farmers direct support to establish their carbon baseline, using the Farm Carbon Toolkit. The greenhouse gas emissions from these farms will then be tracked throughout the project and will form a fundamental part of the data.
The leading innovators among participants will then be paid to work with scientists to co-design crop and feeding trials to carry out on their farms.
These so-called ‘Pulse Pioneers’ will explore ways and means for soils to thrive, crop yields to build and livestock productivity to flourish, through better use and marketing of home-grown pulses and legumes.
The on-farm progress will be based on cutting-edge technologies and farming systems, incorporating some of the latest research and innovations from leading UK institutes and companies. These will be underpinned by rigorous use of data, including the UK’s first ever full lifecycle analysis of cropping rotations and livestock systems.
How to get involved
Keen to expand the knowledge exchange beyond this core group of farmers, the project is also launching the PulsePEP (Performance Enhancing Platform), led by ADAS. This will be a discussion hub for the farmer-led community striving to achieve the best from pulse crops and to reduce carbon emissions.
The project team is urging interested farmers to sign
up now, which they can do through the QR code above.
“This will be the defining project of our time,” believes Mr Vickers. “It’s not just the chance for UK agriculture to make a seismic shift towards Net Zero, but it’ll also deliver a prosperous and resilient way of farming for communities worldwide.
“We want farmers to join us and be part of this exciting journey of discovery. Your knowledge and experience will enrich the science we’re bringing together. You will inspire others and accelerate the pace of change. And together we’ll achieve a farming future that is richly rewarding and immensely gratifying.”
More information about the project, including links to project partners and research initiatives that underpin the project can be found at ncsproject.co.uk