A pioneering partnership scheme to help Dartmoor hill farmers improve the health and productivity of their soils has attracted huge interest at a series of events and farm visits across the moors.

The Dartmoor Hill Farm Project (DHFP) is championing the initiative highlighting how the age-old practice of lime spreading on land can help farmers balance their naturally acidic moorland soils, improving soil and crop health and yields.

This is being achieved by knowledge exchange events focussing on soils, grazing management and grassland establishment.

Already more than 30 farmers have said they want to know more about the scheme, with one farm demonstration event alone, at Broadaford Farm, near Widecombe in the Moor, attracting more than 50 people.

Lime spreading has long been the traditional way for Dartmoor farmers to balance soil acidity but as modern farm machinery and spreading equipment has become larger, many smaller Dartmoor farms have moved away from applying lime due to the physical constraints of narrow field access and the challenge of spreading on steeper slopes.

Earlier this year the Dartmoor Hill Farm Project teamed up with Ashburton-based quarry business, Glendinning, to make it easier for farmers to get information, soil testing expertise and access to newly-sourced, smaller equipment capable of delivering to and spreading on remote moorland sites.

Russell Ashford, chairman of the Hill Farm Project, said: “We are really pleased with the response we have had to this initiative and welcome the opportunity to work with Glendinning on an issue close to farmer’s hearts. Everything begins with soil health which not only informs productivity but enhances biodiversity and carbon storage.

“Controlling pH levels using sustainable methods is important to unlock the potential of our moorland soils whilst bringing wider environmental benefits. This includes drainage and diffuse benefits for our moorland catchments.”

The Dartmoor Hill Farm Project (DHFP) was set up in 2003 to try to ensure a viable future for Dartmoor farmers and has supported farmers to establish and run a wide range of projects to add value to their businesses and to increase vocational skills. It is funded by a number of partners including the Prince’s Countryside Fund, The Duchy of Cornwall and Dartmoor National Park.

The gathering at Broadaford Farm at Widecombe brought farmers and a range of experts together to discuss lime usage and see a spreading demonstration. The event also looked at herbal leys which are a mixture of grasses, legumes and herbs and can bring a variety of benefits to forage, livestock health and soil fertility.

Barry Wilson, Glendinning Managing Director, said: “The interest shown has been phenomenal and we have already visited more than 20 farms to explain how the scheme works, the potential benefits and to carry out the soil tests for pH levels which is part of the offer for DHFP contributor farms. Following this, 17 farms decided to go ahead with spreading, placing orders totalling more than 1,600 tonnes through the scheme.”