A network of Cornish farmers is finding ways to resist the recent extreme heat.

Farmers in East Cornwall are using regenerative practices to create more climate resilient farms.

Adaptable farming systems will be even more vital in the future, as temperatures are predicted to rise as the climate crisis worsens.

This summer the UK reached a record 40C, with parts of Cornwall registering a 36C high, leading to the earliest harvest since 1976 for many.

A large majority of UK farmers are failing to adapt to extreme weather, such as prolonged dry spells and heavy rain, according to a recent study by Exeter University.

Heat and droughts can impact crop and grass growth, taking a toll on yields and winter animal feed, while heavy rainfall can result in erosion and winter run-off.

Farm Net Zero is a National Lottery-funded project operating in East Cornwall.

Anthony Ellis is one of Farm Net Zero's Monitor Farmers. He learnt how to cope with stifling temperatures while working in South Australia for four years.

He brought his expertise from arable and mixed farms in the other hemisphere – where rainfall was sometimes as low as 350-500mm per year – to his family’s farm in East Cornwall.

“We try to direct market as much of our lamb as possible, all one hundred percent grass-fed and carbon positive. But if these more extreme events are going to become more commonplace, a more resilient, adaptable system is going to be important,” Anthony said.

On his 200-acre farm sheep find shade under solar panels, hedgerows and trees in sunnier conditions.

Livestock is moved quicker around the rotation than normal, to ensure the grass is not overgrazed so it can retain root mass and recover quicker.

When mob or paddock grazing farmers can adapt to changing conditions and have a fallback position.

Anthony is even putting the extra summer sunshine to good use. He said: “We have 35 acres of solar panels on the farm and run a small but expanding flock of NZ Romneys under them for a good proportion of the year. This is alongside some permanent pasture, herbal leys, and diverse cover crops on our arable ground."

READ NEXT: Travel bursaries available for young sheep farmers

Farm Net Zero is a partnership between Duchy College’s Rural Business School, Farm Carbon Toolkit, Westcountry Rivers Trust, Innovative Farmers and Innovation for Agriculture, with activities including soil sampling and carbon foot-printing on 40 Monitor Farms.

Alex Bebbington, project officer at Duchy College’s Rural Business School, said: “Climate change is leading to more extreme weather conditions, with farmers on the frontline of dealing with these extremes. Farm Net Zero is working with Cornish farmers to reduce carbon emissions and increase sequestration. A lot of the farming practices that will help farmers reach net zero also improve their resilience to climate change.

“Monitor Farmers like Anthony are working to increase their soil carbon content through rotational grazing, cover cropping and the introduction of livestock to arable land. Increasing soil carbon not only removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere but can make the soil more resilient to extreme weather by improving soil structure, with spongier soil better able to hold onto water and nutrients.”

“Practices such as rotational grazing ensure that plants are not overgrazed, which means there are more leaves and roots to allow for faster regrowth following grazing.”