Soil and Crop Nutrition

Sefter Farm

Barfoots of Botley‘s Sefter Farm was awarded Waitrose Demonstration Farm Status for Soil and Crop Nutrition for its work to improve crop rotations and implement the use of diverse cover crops. These practices have assisted with root development, nutrient availability and carbon capture.Highly Commended in the UK category were Huntapac Produce Ltd, who assist the micronutrient levels of their soils by applying field-specific trace elements in a pellet form. This will influence root vegetable characteristics through skin finish and size.Highly Commended in the World category were Lushof Farm (Primafruit) and JM Farms (Winfresh). Lushof Farm produces its own mulch, and its own worm-containing compost to assist with soil nutrient levels. Similarly, JM Farms improves the quality of its soils using mulch, and through the use of green manures also reduces nitrogen application and improves soil nutrients.

Houghton Estate, Taylor Grown Organics

A wholly owned subsidiary of Produce World since 2015, Taylorgrown‘s Houghton Estate has supplied Waitrose with a range of organic vegetables since 2005. The estate was awarded Waitrose Demonstration Farm status for Soil Management in 2014.Challenges faced by Taylor Grown and Houghton Estate include maintenance of the long crop rotations and sustainable cropping practices that are embedded in their ethos and farming practices. A drive to reduce block cropping rotations around the farm has allowed Houghton Estate to improve pest control and increase biodiversity across the land base. Ultimately, this enables it to continue to produce great quality vegetable crops.Soil health and maintenance of soil nutrients and organic matter is a key challenge in maintaining the estate’s organic production. However, the farm is managed by engaged personnel who have a real passion for biodiversity. Learning from the Waitrose Farm Assessment programme, Houghton Estate has focused its attention on carbon reduction.

Tany Farms

Tany Nature is located in Badajoz, Spain – close to the Portuguese border on the banks of the river Guadiana. Tany has been supplying stonefruit to Waitrose since 2006.Sustainability is at the heart of Tany’s farming operations. They were awarded Waitrose Demonstration Farm Status for Soil and Crop Nutrition in recognition of the novel techniques and work they put in to improving soils. Tany recognises that as a limited and finite resource, the sustainable use of soil is crucial to ensuring food security and mitigating the threats posed by climate change. Their aim is to leave the land in a better condition than which they found it.The Waitrose Farm Assessment has proved a useful platform in communicating the work that has taken place at Tany Nature to date. It also instigated a review of soil improvement practices to further measure the effectiveness and impact of these techniques.

Meerlust Boerdery

Meerlust Plase is a 30 ha, second-generation grape farm located in the Western Cape in South Africa. It specialises in the sustainable production of Waitrose’s preferred red grape variety, Crimson Seedless, and has supplied Waitrose since 2011. Fully embracing Waitrose’s technical policies, the farm’s owner, Jaco du Toit, has set his targets firmly on sustainability. This is evident when looking at all aspects of his business, but is particularly apparent when it comes to soil management. By seeking to understand the critical needs of his soils and how they can be met in an integrated fashion, Jaco reduced artificial inputs of certain nutrients by 100% in just three years, resulting in healthier vines, improved productivity and sweeter fruit with a longer shelf life. Nitrogen-fixing plants between the vines has also created a refuge for natural predators, reducing pesticide use.Jaco sees his farm as an ecosystem in itself. “What you do to one aspect of the system has a direct impact on something else” he explained. “The soil is the backbone of my business and anything I do to it has an implication further down the line. I can save money on fertilisers and insecticides by using integrated farming techniques. The better quality fruit I produce requires less cleaning in the packhouse and has fewer issues upon arrival in the UK.”Changing weather systems, water shortages and labour availability may create future challenges, but Jaco believes he will be best placed to deal with these by working with and staying close to Waitrose and Meerlust Plase’s other flagship producers.