British farming is relearning what it forgot


Notebook, which is widely regarded as “the Bible” for all agricultural students, farmers and industry professionals, was first published over 130 years ago. But its co-author, Richard Soffe, emeritus member of Rural Business School of Duché and Bicton Colleges, says that for the last 21st edition, he found himself revisiting Notebooks from the 1800s.

“We looked at the old editions and found things that we had forgotten as an industry and now come back on repeat – it’s really pretty amazing,” says Soffe. “In the 1800s, for example, farmers knew the importance of grasslands made up of many different species; the latest edition reflects the fact that we have started to increase mixtures in meadows and seagrass beds.

More science and technology

Much of this age-old knowledge is combined with modern science and technology – a step “back to the future,” says Soffe. In particular, the chapter authors – who came from all over Europe – were asked to focus more on environmental challenges; reflecting growing interest in the issue, changes in post-Brexit agricultural policy and the NFU’s goal of reaching net zero by 2040.

The chapters on agriculture and wildlife and resource management bear witness to this. “While this is a farmer-friendly book, it says bluntly that agriculture needs to do more for wildlife,” Soffe said. “But it encourages farmers to look at their farm’s resources as a whole, so they can manage them more effectively. “

The 21st edition also includes a new chapter, Applied Nutrition, dealing with ruminant and monogastric nutrition. “Applied nutrition is much more scientific than before. For example, now we are talking about how to use it to control the type of milk produced.

Additional scientific data is included in the chapter on soil management, as understanding and interest in soil has continued to grow. And the focus is more on renewables as farmers seek to generate more off-farm income.

Adding value to products is another important topic as producers seek new sources of income in the post-Brexit world. “We’ve put more emphasis on marketing, branding and storytelling, so farmers can talk to people about the benefits of livestock, while adding value to their products,” says Ward.

As agriculture and science continue to develop and specialize, The Agricultural Notebook is moving from “bible” status to “essential reference book,” which now includes a host of additional resource suggestions, Soffe said.

The 21st edition was launched in February and is edited by Mr Soffe and Professor Matt Lobley of the University of Exeter. It is available from Waterstones, Amazon and Wiley.

Adding value to products is another important topic as producers seek new sources of income in the post-Brexit world. “We’ve put more emphasis on marketing, branding and storytelling, so farmers can talk to people about the benefits of livestock, while adding value to their products,” says Ward.

As agriculture and science continue to develop and specialize, The Agricultural Notebook is moving from “bible” status to “essential reference book,” which now includes a host of suggestions for additional resources, Soffe said.

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