Regenerative Upland Farming in Peeblesshire
Wemyss and March Estate’s upland farming unit cover around 2870 acres of permanent pasture in Peeblesshire and are operated on a regenerative organic system, essentially a system of farming utilising grazing practices that, among other benefits, help to address climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter, soil structures and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon draw down and an improved water cycle.
This system of farming in a grazing regime focuses on soil health and stimulates improved plant growth, increased soil carbon deposits, and overall pasture and grazing land productivity, while greatly increasing soil fertility, insect and plant biodiversity, and soil carbon sequestration. At the same time the system reduces and, in some cases removes the need for artificial inputs which not only aids biodiversity balance but also improves profit margins in the process.
All farming systems rely on soil as a basic ingredient and it is an irony that as farmers we have, in some cases, forgotten about the importance of soil health as prerequisite for productivity from the land. Soil health is at the core of regenerative farming systems. A healthy soil is a fabulously complex ecosystem, comprising countless billions of microscopic organisms all working away in their own little niches, feasting on each other and on sugars exuded from the roots of growing plants. A symbiotic nutrient cycle which is fuelled by the plants we grow, and which in good balance, helps these same plants thrive and grow.
Industrial agriculture doesn’t have the same focus on soil health. Instead, cultivations, chemical and monocultures are employed to focus on yield and production efficiency for short term gain to maximize profits. The result is a dramatic loss of soil health, widespread runoff and pollution and a crisis in biodiversity.
Regenerative agriculture supports biodiversity at all scales.
As climate change draws more attention, regenerative agriculture is seen as a growing part of the solution. That is because it can help with both climate mitigation and adaptation.
In adaptation, farming becomes more resilient in the face of climate change. Healthy soils absorb more water, making farms better able to withstand both flooding and drought, and reducing runoff. Diversified crops make the risk of one total failure less likely.
Mitigation is about reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Regenerative agriculture causes fewer emissions, because there’s less machinery use and fewer chemical inputs. It’s also better at sequestering carbon. Plants remove carbon from the atmosphere and release it into the soil. Healthy, undisturbed soils are far better able to “sequester” or store that carbon, and prevent it from contributing to warming the planet.