Min-till (minimum tillage) is a low impact farming system that replaces ploughing and enhances carbon retention in the soil. Its been around for many years (over half of western Canada’s corn-belt is cultivated that way). Now the UK Government seems set to make it a central element of their strategy to meet carbon emissions targets – see their Green Food Project. Even the likely delivery mechanism seems settled for it says the aim “links with” proposed changes to DEFRA’s Environnmental Stewardship schemes. That surely signals farmers are about to be paid not to plough?
It will put archaeologists in a tricky spot. Currently they tend to “accept” (to use CBA’s word) metal detecting but only on “disturbed” land (so it can be represented at least as harmless). But if ploughing becomes largely redundant and only the top inch or two of fields are ever disturbed neither archaeologists nor the Government will be able or willing to pretend that using machines that reach down between 9 and 24 inches is harmless!
So watch this space, interesting times are coming. The first thing to look out for will be the reaction of many detectorists when they twig what the Government is planning. Since they are currently petitioning No. 10 to ensure green farming methods are applied they ought to be big supporters of min-till as a way to save the planet. But I suspect, instead, very soon there’ll be a sixteenth threat of a recording strike! Anyone care to bet otherwise?