Regenerative agriculture helps restore soil carbon

Soil saviour Matt Waldie is taking a regenerative approach to farm more sustainably and using Newton to improve resilience.

Forth generation arable farmer and climate hero Matt Waldie is farm manager at 4 Front Farming Co Ltd in Fife, Scotland. Farming across 4 farms from sea level up to 700 ft, Matt’s on the front line of climate change and utilising the benefits of Newton seed treatment as part of a regenerative farming approach to help secure winter wheat, winter oat and spring barley establishment under increasingly challenging growing conditions.

Newton biostimulant seed treatment really helps make our crops more resilient

Newton biostimulant seed treatment benefits on Gilston Mains Estate:

  • 2.5 days faster emergence
  • Significant root growth and tillering increases
  • Increases nutrient uptake 
  • Improves winter wheat, winter oat and spring barley establishment
  • Improves frost heave resistance over winter
  • Higher yield potential

Hear from climate hero Matt Waldie

Watch the video below to hear Matt talk about the crop establishment benefits of Newton biostimulant seed treatment within his regenerative farming system. 

You can also read on below to learn more about Matt’s system in more detail and how Newton fits into that.


A regenerative approach to sustainable and profitable farming


Focusing on soil organic matter

4 Front Farming Co. Ltd is a collaborative between four farmers set up to use economies of scale to farm more efficiently, in a quest to farm more profitably and sustainably”, explains Matt.

“We are all LEAF members and got LEAF marqued this year.”

“Up until 2016 our soil organic matter had been dropping. Between 1993 it went from 7.84% to 6.1%. Yields had plateaued, yet our fixed and variable costs were increasing, and we had seen a reduction in the numbers of grey partridge, continues Matt.

“Together with the increasing loss of actives and volatility on world markets, we knew we had to make changes to the way we were farming.

“So in 2017 we adopted a regenerative farming approach to restore our soil carbon.”

“Our goal is to maintain and enhance the land that we farm and to increase our soils’ organic matter,” says Matt.

‘To do that, we’ve introduced the use of cover crops and direct drilling into our system, and brought mob-grazed cattle back on to the farm.”



It’s all about soil organic matter

8-way cover crop mix of oil radish, phacielia, clovers, vetch, sunflower, millet, buckwheat and quinoa.

8-way cover crop mix adds diversity

The cover crop is an 8-way mix of different plants – oil radish, phacielia, clovers, vetch, sunflower, millet, buckwheat and quinoa – that is drilled end of May and left to establish.

“The multi-cover crop not only creates a huge green biomass above ground, it puts down a huge root system that brings massive benefits to soil organic matter and increases the water holding capacity of our soils.”

Matt is using the cover crop mix not just for soil health benefits, but for environmental benefits too, creating biodiversity havens ahead of the next crop for pollinating bees and insects.

“We allow the cover crop to re-seed over the winter which also provides food and shelter for song birds, and then spray off with Ally Max in the spring.”

Mob-grazed cattle help build SOM

“Our system is all about building organic matter to supercharge our soils and this is where the mob-grazed cattle come in.”

“The worlds’ most fertile soils are the ones that have been created by large numbers of ruminants moving in mass. What we are trying to do is imitate this process,” explains Matt.

“We have 300 cattle on the farm, which. we graze on the cover crop, moving them 1-2 times per day depending on how much they have eaten and to avoid compaction. Land which is not suitable for food production is for mob-grazing grass leys.”

Grazing the cover crop and grass with cattle helps encourage top re-growth and a bulk of roots that all adds to soil organic matter as it breaks down in the soil. It effectively creates a green manure.


Mob cattle grazing cover crop

Cover crops sprayed-off end of July with glyphosate, prior to direct drilling into the 6 ft high cover crop in August with Oats or Wheat.

Direct drilling brings cost and CO2 savings

“Our focus in not just on sustainability, but on profitability too,” says Matt. “You can’t farm green if you’re in the red.”

“In addition to fertiliser savings from the use of cover crops in the rotation, we’re also saving money by direct drilling.”

“We’re using 6 litres per hectare of fuel to establish our crops, as opposed to 50-80 litres with a conventional plough-based system. The reduced fuel use brings diesel and carbon savings.”

“The use of direct drilling means we’re not moving any soil, so we’re drilling straight into a green biomass and allowing that biomass to create a cover for the emerging crop. The blanket effect it produces also enables us to reduce our herbicide usage.”

“Brome can be a problem but we manage with glyphosate. We don’t use any residuals as the cover crop means we don’t get good soil contact for residuals to work. So, we just use an SU to take out the radish and phacelia in the spring.”

“The cover crop blanket has enabled us to stop using slug pellets and insecticides across the whole farm.”

“The brackling effect of the cover crop means we still get good air flow into the seedbed that keeps slugs at bay, and we have a huge population of ladybirds that help to control aphids so we don’t have to worry about BYDV.”

Extreme weather is our biggest challenge

“Our biggest agronomic challenge is the weather, in terms of the extreme drought and extreme rain that threaten crop yields. At 700 ft above sea level we need to get crops in early and in good condition in the winter.”

“In the spring, we need to get the barley deep rooting as fast as possible.”

“Where we’ve adopted the direct drilling system we’re able to drill our winter crops earlier and into better conditions, and with that, comes an earlier harvest the following year.”

“That’s where Newton biostimulant seed treatment has come into our system really well.”

Newton treated winter oats establishing into cover crop

Newton biostimulant seed treatment really helps make our crops more resilient

Left: Untreated seed. Right: Newton treated seed. Drilled September, photo taken in November

Newton helps make our crops more resilient

“We use Newton biostimulant seed treatment on all our crops except the beans – on the oats, the wheat and the spring barley. Especially in the winter, we’ve seen big improvements in emergence with a good 2 to 3 days earlier emergence from using Newton over undressed seed.”

“They develop more tillers which gives us higher yield potential and provides better frost heave resistance through the unbelievable rooting it provides.”

“We have to focus on a way to make our business more resilient and sustainable.  With more roots, our crops are more efficient and can scavenge for nutrients. It costs so much to establish a crop, the more you can do early the better.”

Looking for more information on Newton?

Download our Newton Booklet here, with trials results, testimonials, and product information.

Newton biostimulant seed treatment really helps make our crops more resilient