Powys farmers trialling rock dust’s potential as a grass nutrient

TWO grassland farms in Powys are researching whether a rock dust sourced from a local quarry can provide sufficient nutrients to grow grass through a project funded by Farming Connect- ‘Try Out Fund’.

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Finely ground basalt rock produced at a quarry in Builth Wells has been applied to one half of two fields covering 2.4 hectares at Upper House, Howey, where Gareth Davies farms with his son, William, and at Treforgan Farm, Dolau, farmed by father and son, David and Will Lewis.

 

Growth will be compared to land where basalt and fertiliser only has been applied and to a control area which has received no treatments.

 

Sward composition of both fields was assessed at the start of the project and growth will now be monitored over the coming months.

 

This exercise will be repeated in the spring, on fields earmarked for silage or hay, and the response also measured.

 

Soil samples pre and post application will also be assessed to establish any differences.

 

Gareth Davies, who farms beef and sheep, says if the project results are favourable, it would reduce his reliance on oil-based fertilisers.

 

“I had not heard of basalt rock dust until six months ago,” he admits.

 

It costs around £40 a tonne delivered and spread.

 

As well as financial gains to his business, Mr Davies says there could also be a benefit to the environment as adding rock dust to farmland is believed to remove and lock up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

 

The research would not have been possible without funding and technical support from the Farming Connect Try Our Fund, he says.

 

Non Williams, who is overseeing the basalt rock dust project, said Farming Connect had developed the fund to help improve efficiencies and profitability within agricultural businesses whilst protecting the environment.

 

She said the results of this project will be shared with other producers in Wales after it concludes at the end of 2024.

 

Other projects which have been awarded funding include growing lucerne to increase the resilience of lamb finishing systems to summer drought and establishing the most suitable crops for under sowing brassicas.

 

The Try-Out fund provides funding for successful project applications to individual business or groups of up to four farming businesses and growers enabling them to

try-out ideas and bring them to life.

 

The new application window for the Try Out Fund opened on October 9th 2023 and will run until October 20th. Successful applicants will be awarded up to £5,000 to help fund on-farm trials that experiment with new ideas. Applicants must be registered with Farming Connect and be able to complete their projects by January 2025.

 

“Funding can be used for technical assistance, sampling, testing and other reasonable expenses such as those relating to short term hire of specialist equipment or facilities directly relating to the project,” Ms Williams explained.

 

The application form can be found on the Farming Connect website, or to receive the link and further information contact fctryout@menterabusnes.co.uk

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