Improving Pasture Performance: PASTORAL
What is PASTORAL?
An exciting new project for dairy, beef and sheep farmers
PASTORAL* is a partnership project set up to develop a digital tool designed to help farmers increase productivity and carbon efficiency by improving pasture performance and management.
PASTORAL’s digital solution combines satellite data with advanced algorithms and delivers weekly information on grass biomass and carbon budgets, which farmers can use to help with their decision making and planning. The biomass monitoring service provides near real-time and field-scale information on grass biomass, its consumption and growth rate. The carbon-ready demonstration quantifies field carbon accounts across the farm, providing a carbon storage and sequestration evidence base.
To make it convenient to use, PASTORAL easily integrates into existing app-based farm services such as the Cool Farm Tool and Agrecalc.
Who is involved in the project?
The project is funded by Innovate UK and led by Environment Systems, a leading agricultural and environmental data consultancy, in partnership with the University of Edinburgh and the Soil Association. An Innovative Farmers field lab is coordinating farmer involvement in the project, which is supported by Waitrose Dairy Farmers, Dovecote Park, Dalehead Foods and Mole Valley Farmers.
Working with and for farmers
Around a 100 livestock farmers from across the UK will work with the project group, involved in testing, developing and demonstrating this new technology. To get the best results, the project is working with farmers from a variety of systems - organic, regenerative and conventional, a selection of whom will be part of on-farm field labs and workshops.
How will the project evolve?
PASTORAL is currently in its ‘discovery phase’, finding out more about farmers’ needs and preferences, as well as collecting field maps and management details from participating farmers.
The second ‘development phase’ runs throughout 2022. This will see satellite imagery, advanced modelling and weather and climate data combined to produce field reports of weekly biomass and monthly/annual carbon budgets. Farmers will be at the heart of this process, to make sure reports are appealing and providing value. Participating farmers will have early access to reports throughout 2022 and 2023 so they can test the tool and provide feedback.
Why optimise pasture performance?
Improved pasture management can help make your farm run more efficiently, be more productive and support all-important soil health. By developing effective tools to monitor pasture at a field scale, you can reduce inputs, waste and reliance on concentrated feeds. Current methods can be time consuming and do not always reflect field quality or future growth accurately. PASTORAL’s goal is to provide accurate data and biomass monitoring in a format which can save time.
PASTORAL combines satellite imagery and modelling to monitor biomass, predict grass growth and produce carbon budgets. Optical imagery only sees the top layer of the canopy and is obscured by cloud, while radar imagery sees through cloud but is noisy. Combined with a model of carbon flow, developed by the University of Edinburgh, PASTORAL provides per-field biomass records as well as showing pasture biomass over time.
Find our more by watching this video
Q&A webinar hosted by Soil Association and Environment Systems for beef, dairy and sheep farmers, 28 February 2022.
I’m a farmer and interested in being involved. What will I need to do?
To participate in PASTORAL, we’re asking you to provide details of 5-10 fields you wish to submit for monitoring. This includes field locations and ideally any recent history and grazing plans for 2022. You will also be asked to complete a short survey. The process can be complete by email, phone or Zoom.
As a participating farmer, you will receive early access to the tool and reports on pasture biomass and carbon, and you will be invited to provide feedback and attend co-creation workshops.
If you’re keen to get more involved, there will be opportunities to submit field biomass data and/or host field labs as the project progresses.
How can I be involved as a farmer?
You can get involved in the following ways:
Share your current pasture management practices and ways you are wanting to improve your productivity by completing this online survey that tells us about your farm and practices.
Sign up to be part of the project. Fill in this short PASTORAL Farm Participation Sign-up form and tell us about at least five of your fields and their location and you will receive in-season biomass and carbon budget information.
Take part in on-farm trials. This year take part in on-farm data collect to help test and develop the model for data insights on pasture performance to help in the development of PASTORAL. Innovative Farmers has information about how to get involved.
If you have any questions or would like to know more, please get in touch with Tara O’Neill by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (07385 650917)