A Newton farmer has been awarded a prestgious Nuffield Trust scholarship for 2014.
Country Land and Business Association (CLA) member David Walston is one of 21 people to be awarded one of the scholarships, selected on their ability to shape and lead change in their respective agricultural industries.
Through bursary funding, Mr Walston, who farms 2000 acres at Thriplow Farm, will travel for at least eight weeks over an 18-month period, undertaking research and review of global practices for his study – ‘Improving yields and profits by improving soils’.
Mr Walston said: “I’ve always known about the scholarship scheme; several friends have done them and I had read several interesting reports, so it sounded like a good idea to apply. I applied for one a few years ago and didn’t get one then, so it’s second time lucky.”
He will be awarded his scholarship, along with his fellow scholars, at the Annual Nuffield Conference on 21 November, with his Nuffield study commencing in the New Year.
“There are a lot of people interested in improving soils, but when you ask if this is for improving their yields or their profits they don’t really know,” Mr Walston said. “So I wanted to find some direct evidence that even though, theoretically, it is a good thing to do, whether it works in practice.
“I’m hoping that when I complete my study I’ll have a clear idea of the direction I want to take the farm in. I have ideas now, but hopefully they will change and be influenced over the course of my travels.”
Mr Walston is planning to visit Australia, South America, North America, and various parts of Europe, but hasn’t started to plan his exact itinerary as yet.
“I will be looking at zero tillage, cover cropping, and novel grazing methods for integrating livestock. While quite new in this country, they have been used a lot more in other countries for a lot longer period. It’s going to be useful to talk to people who have been doing this long-term – it will offer a treasure trove of information, even it is a different scenario to what I’m in. Hopefully I’ll be able to find some parallels.”
CLA East Regional Director Nicola Currie said: “The calibre of applicants for a Nuffield Trust scholarship is extremely high, and he has done well to win this award.”