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Jill and Andrew Bathgate, Castleton Farm, Gorebridge

For Jill and Andrew Bathgate there is an emphasis on self sufficiency at Castleton and Arniston Mains Farms. Complementary enterprises of arable, dairy, beef finishing and sheep have to work together to the benefit of each other.

"The farms were very run down in 1947 when we took the tenancy. In the 1960's large areas of opencast and reclamation left the land in poor condition. Gradual improvement using manure have helped in a closed system where cereals and protein crops are fed back to the livestock. It was however evident that the soils were not working to their full potential which coincided with entry to the AECS scheme".

Cover Crop and Soil Health Strategy

The soil health rejuventation strategy for the Bathgates began with an Albrecht soil analysis from which a soil nutrient balancing assessment resulted in an extensively diverse cover crop growing without restriction. The resulting spectrum of fungal and bacterial microbes in addition to worms and shredders completely changed the soil structure and created a colossal legacy of sequestered carbon.

The following wheat crop benefited hugely from this. The pictures below illustrate the difference in establishment between the cover cropped field (on the right) and the neighbouring field on the left. Rotations in both fields were the same in recent years, only difference being the field on the right was put into a Dods 5 way cocktail cover crop prior to the wheat being sown in the autumn. Both fields were sown within days of each other.

The Dods advice on soil rejuvenation, choice of cover crop species and their ratio completely reversed the condition of one such field from below economic threshold to far exceeding our expectations – in just one year.

Jill & Andrew Bathgate

Taking this practice a step further to introduce Herbsward in to the grazing rotation has not only increased grazing yield and quality but the selected species also acts as working cover crop. With the addition of facultative anaerobes (BAM) in the dairy slurry, the recycling of these nutrients is faster to plant available form with no scabbing or smell in the slurry tanks.