UK retailer Tesco and the WWF have launched an innovative trial project that offers UK dairy farmers attractive subsidies for implementing climate-friendly agricultural practices in cultivating feed for their livestock.
The scheme aims to help reduce the environmental impact of the average shopping basket.
The project involves 15 farmers in Tesco’s Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG), who have received an 80% seed subsidy to plant herbal leys – a soil-enriching grass mix of plants, legumes and herbs used as feed for dairy cows.
The seed mix offers several benefits over conventional grass fields, including better on-farm biodiversity, reduction in carbon footprint, improvement in soil health and water quality and better animal health.
'Critical Decade For Climate And Nature'
Tesco agriculture manager, Tom Atkins, stated, “We want to ensure we’re doing all we can to continue to support our farmers and, in this critical decade for climate and nature, help make our dairy farms some of the most sustainable in the world.
“We will continue to work with our farmers to both reduce carbon emissions and continue to increase the amount of biodiversity on farms. We will also be working together on more innovative initiatives like our herbal leys project, which should bring huge benefits in terms of soil health and biodiversity.”
Even though cows are responsible for 2% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, finding a way to reduce emissions associated with dairy farming could lessen its environmental impact.
Since 2016, Tesco dairy farmers have reduced their carbon emissions by 6.5%.
The herbal leys trial is part of a more comprehensive set of measures by Tesco, designed to emphasise the importance of lowering carbon emissions and improving biodiversity on farms.
The retailer has introduced a new emissions reduction target to help TSDG farmers reduce their emissions by a further 10% by 2025.
Tesco added that plans to improve soil quality, water usage, and biodiversity would also be implemented on each TSDG farm.
Sustainable agriculture specialist at WWF, Callum Weir, said, “UK farmers have an important role to play in bringing back nature to our landscape via sustainable farming practices.
“Nature-based solutions such as herbal leys can play a role in tackling climate change and help support WWF and Tesco’s shared goal of halving the environmental impact of the average shopping basket.”
Participants In The Trial
Among the first to participate in the trial are dairy farmers Amie and Chris Lovatt, who run a farm near Macclesfield in Cheshire.
According to Amie Lovatt, finding the balance between producing affordable and healthy food and looking after the environment is vital.
“We believe that herbal leys could provide a perfect answer to that as not only will they improve soil health and structure thanks to their deep roots, but they are also less reliant on artificial fertilisers,” she added.