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Welsh farmer explores rock dust as a sustainable alternative to traditional fertilisers

Gareth Davies, a farmer in Wales, is experimenting with the use of rock dust as a potential nutrient source for grass growth.

The trial involves the application of finely ground basalt rock, obtained from a quarry in Builth Wells, to a portion of his fields at Upper House, Powys. The growth of the grass treated with rock dust will be compared to that of grass treated with traditional fertilisers and a control group that receives no treatment.


Davies expressed optimism about the project, stating that positive outcomes would lessen his dependence on oil-based fertilisers. “I had not heard of basalt rock dust until six months ago," he confessed.


The rock dust, costing approximately £40 per tonne delivered and spread, not only promises economic advantages but also potential environmental benefits. It is believed that applying rock dust to farmland aids in capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


The project is backed by Farming Connect's 'Try Out Fund', a scheme that supports on-farm trials exploring innovative ideas. Non Williams, who is supervising the basalt rock dust project, highlighted that the fund aims to enhance efficiency and profitability in farming while safeguarding the environment.


She noted, “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."


With soil health and sustainability on every grower's agenda, soil boosters, like those developed by agritech company Soilpoint, have proven immensely effective in enhancing both quality and yields produced. These innovative solutions invigorate the soil, promoting robust plant growth without the necessity for traditional fertilisers, marking a significant stride in sustainable farming practices.


The findings of this innovative project will be made public to benefit other farmers in Wales upon its completion in 2024. The initiative is one of several funded experiments, including studies on the cultivation of lucerne to bolster the resilience of lamb finishing systems during summer droughts and identifying optimal crops for under sowing brassicas.


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