Nafferton Farm is run by Newcastle University as a working business, producing milk and arable crops. It also provides information and experiences for students and is a base for research work.

The Nafferton Ecological Farming Group (NEFG) is a research unit based at Nafferton Farm, within the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Newcastle University. NEFG researchers focus on low-input, sustainable and organic approaches to crop and livestock management.

Since 2001, one half of Nafferton Farm has been used for conventional farming, the other half certified for organic use. The farm thus provides a unique research facility for comparing and improving organic and conventional farming systems. Information is collected on an ongoing basis and a summary of the comparative amounts of invertebrates and birds on the two halves of the farm is given here (.pdf).

NEFG has two fields dedicated to multi-factorial field trials: East Hemmel Field and Quarry Field.

East Hemmel contains the unique Nafferton Factorial Systems Comparison experiments, which were set up in 2003 to provide a facility for in-depth study of different aspects of conventional and organic farming systems. The trials were originally designed to quantify the yield and food quality differences between contrasting crop rotations, fertilisation practices, and crop protection practices. Four replicated experiments are run within the same field, with each one including the same two crop rotations (one diverse, organic and one intensive conventional).

The experiments were begun in different years so that in any given year, there are a diversity of crops growing in the experimental field. Since the initiation of these trials, additional factors have been added to some of the experiments, in particular tillage (minimum till versus conventional till) and crop variety. Impacts of crop management practices on a range of factors are studied, including insect and plant biodiversity, soil fertility and nitrate leaching.

Plot Layout for East Hemmel Field Trials

The first trials established in the Quarry field were for the NUE-Crops trial, which was established in 2009. Similar to the East Hemmel trials, the Quarry trials have a multifactorial design with four replicate blocks, but the plot design is slightly different. Initial experiments for NUE-Crops were designed to compare the performance of different crop varieties across different management practices (e.g. fertility types/input levels, tillage, crop protection).

Plot Layout for Quarry Field Trials

The Nafferton Farm

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