Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
expenditure of energy needed to run a system that was not well designed in the first place.
It is the best use we can make of our fossil fuel capital.
Sectoring, placing things in relation to influences coming from off site such as wind and
sunshine, needs to be considered together with zoning. So a timber plantation, as well as
being sited relatively far from the farmhouse, can also be placed to act as a windbreak. This
means finding out which are the most frequent and most damaging winds on the farm be-
fore going ahead with any planting. Time spent in careful and patient observation before
acting will pay for itself many times over when you are planning permanent fixtures like
woods, buildings and earthworks.
Similarly, moving the polytunnel might not have been such a good idea if it meant mov-
ing it from a sunny spot to one overlooked by tall trees or a steep hill. A balance must be
found between the different influences of zone and sector, and there is no rule about which
will be most important on any individual site. The principles are universal, but the answers
are very local.
A third factor to put in the balance is slope - planning in the vertical dimension. If there
is steep land on the farm this may be the place for the timber plantation. All steep hillsides
should be wooded to protect them from soil erosion. Soil erosion is not a purely tropic-
al problem, as is often supposed. All over Britain soil is being lost from agricultural land
faster than it is being replaced by natural processes.
Thought must be given to what will happen when the timber is harvested. Clear felling
can leave the soil more exposed to erosion than it would have been if left under grass. But
there are ways of growing timber, known as selection forestry, in which the trees are felled
a few at a time, maintaining the soil cover and a healthy ecology. These are more suitable
for steep slopes than is clear felling.
Slope planning is a matter of working with the landscape, rather than in spite of it. Low-
lying areas prone to floods can be used for meadow, rather than arable, which is more badly
affected by flooding. Buildings can be placed on gentle hillsides, preferably south-facing.
Here they are above the level where cold air can accumulate overnight, causing frost pock-
ets, and below the exposed hilltops. Water can be stored above the point where it will be
used. Thus we can avoid or reduce the need for drainage works, house heating and water
pumping, all of which are energy intensive.
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