The plough, biodiversity, soil health and fresh air


This time of year we are visited every day by a flock of seagulls – even though no land is ploughed there is rich pickings to be had in readiness for the ploughing on The Shropshire Plain – something that has occurred around here for many hundreds of years.

The first ploughs were nothing more than a stick scratching the earth.  The Romans invented a plough with stout iron teeth mounted on a wooden yolk which the Celts modified slightly; it was light and fields were cross ploughed so fields tended to be square.  The Saxons invented an eight oxen plough which was heavy so fields tended to be long to save on turning.  The old English furlong was 1/8th of a mile from “furrow long” from the strip farming system pre enclosure of land.

The iconic scene of seagulls flying behind a tractor and plough today is a sign of the life in the soil - when no seagulls follow a plough you know the land is not loved.  As we now know the physical act of ploughing causes the carbon in the soil to oxidize releasing carbon to the atmosphere.  Treflach, by not ploughing is not only storing carbon in the soil, but the all year round greenery takes in carbon dioxide and generates oxygen; the lungs of Oswestry.

NB By Ian Steele:  Not only do both Treflach Hall and Treflach Farm not plough the land, Treflach Farm employs a cultivation technique called minimum tillage (or min till) to set the seed for home grown forage for cattle and pigs.  By not disturbing below 50mm the biodiversity of the soil is not disturbed and carbon can be sequestered by the constant growth.  We are able to reduce our dependence on bought in calories and reduce red diesel consumption through the use of smaller, older machinery that doesn’t compact the ground.  We also eschew the use of herbicides in favour of wholecropping the cereals/legumes and baling the stalk and grain/fruit together.

Find out more about our style of regenerative farming elsewhere on the website, or get in touch to continue the conversation.