Study of eco-friendly farm shows benefits of sustainable agriculture

Nature friendly farming can deliver for wildlife, carbon storage and profits,the National Trust has said after an audit of a farm run by the conservationcharity.

Wimpole Home Farm near Cambridge, has been run using organic, wildlife friendly and sustainable farming methods for the past 12 years, the Trust said.

A full "health check" of Wimpole's wildlife and how it is storing carbon hasrevealed benefits for the environment, as well as public access through anetwork of footpaths and financial returns from growing food, the charity said.

Wimple Hall in Cambridgeshire

The findings are published as the Agriculture Bill setting out the UK'spost-Brexit farming policy, with a focus on paying farmers to deliver "publicgoods" such as boosting wildlife and preventing flooding, is set to be debated in the Lords.

But conservationists warn progress at home towards moreenvironmentally-friendly farming must not be undermined by trade deals thatallow imports of food that does not meet UK environmental and welfarestandards.

A skylark pictured on the estate Credit: Phil Morley/National Trust/PA Wire

Surveys of Wimpole have revealed that numbers of rare skylarks, in decline in the wider countryside, have nearly doubled since 2013, from 12 to 21 pairs, while the number of linnets has increased from three to seven pairs.

Wimpole is also an important site for corn buntings in Cambridgeshire, withbetween five and eight pairs breeding each year, and the farm provides winter feeding habitat for other threatened birds grey partridges, lapwings and hen harriers.

The team at Wimpole also conducted a carbon audit of the farm, which found measures to mange the soil, alongside tree planting and managing woods and hedges, helped the landscape soak up 2,260 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

While the Trust acknowledges the livestock emit greenhouse gas emissions,Callum Weir, farm manager at Wimpole, said animals were the "perfect tool" to manage Grade I listed parkland and traditional hay meadows.

If that land were ploughed up for arable farming, it would release largeamounts of carbon, he said, adding:

Wimpole is the only lowland farm run in-hand by the conservation charity, and is being managed in line with its focus on farming models which are good for nature, deliver public benefits and make a profit.