Following a successful pilot phase in 2017, The Duchy of Cornwall has launched a major new project to understand and enhance the value of natural capital across our rural estate.
Natural capital is a way of assigning value to our natural resources, such as soil, air, and water, in a way that can be measured and recorded that these assets are protected and utilised efficiently.
We are focusing on six natural capitals across the Duchy: access, biodiversity, historic environment, landscape, soil and water. The first step is to measure these natural capitals as they currently exist within the Duchy so that any potential increase in value can be tracked over time.
Using previously collected data and a site survey, a digitised map will be produced to identify the natural capitals requiring attention on each farm. Our vision is that eventually every Duchy farm will be able to use this information to create a plan, designed in partnership with tenants, to protect these resources and enhance their natural capital. It is hoped that this approach will benefit Duchy tenants in a variety of new ways. This might include using land to reduce flood risk to surrounding areas or managing soils to store more carbon and help mitigate carbon change.
Lois and Rhys Morris, tenants at Tresemple Farm are taking part in the project with the Duchy’s support:
Q: How would you define natural capital?
A: Natural Capital to us is putting a value on the abundance of natural resources that exist within our farm. The value may be direct or indirect. Everything from the superb Cornish climate, in which almost everything grows, to the worms and fungi in the soil that capture the carbon and link the cycle between forager and forage.
Q: What natural capital is already present on Tresemple Farm? What opportunities does it present for you?
A: Tresemple is fantastically fertile and sheltered by mature woodland. This in addition to being set against the backdrop of the Tresillian Estuary provides an abundance of diverse wildlife. As we write we are listening to the owls hunting.
By farming in a way that is sensitive to the natural capital we insert ourselves into the ecosystem within Tresemple, and we all win. For example, by encouraging habitat for pollinators, our new herbal leys should flourish and continue to reseed, or by increasing nesting areas for birds, we have natural fly control for the livestock. Nature had it right first time. We just need to find a way to fit in whilst making the business viable. We have beautiful parklands, have replanted meadows and are in the process of linking the routes for wildlife to travel around our farm.
Q: How has digital mapping been useful for you as tenants? How do you plan to use the information going forward?
A: Like many others, we applied for this tenancy having only visited the farm once! Digital mapping allowed us to get a feel for the farm, gain an overall picture and start planning our environmental and agricultural initiatives. Digital maps provide crucial information when planning, everything from the length of hedgerows on farm that could be funded to maintaining, to recent disease outbreaks locally. All these form part of the business plan. The more precise you are, the less chance for silly errors.
Digital mapping is also a great tool in monitoring progress year on year and sharing that information with people who cannot physically be there with you. And it’s creating history! We only hope people will look back on our time here kindly.
Q: Why do you think the recording of natural capital is so important?
A: I like science, and without recording, your ideas are subjective at best. It is vital that we monitor accurately our impact on the land and Natural Capital. The big question is, what will we do with the knowledge? If we are having a negative impact, we need to at the very least stop further decline. If we are moving forward and nurturing the land, we need to share what is happening here, and hopefully encourage others to participate in not just sustainable farming, but regenerative farming.
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