Farmers sought to take part in ’defining project of our time’

A new industry-leading project has been launched to help farmers reduce agricultural emissions by 1.5Mt CO₂e a year.

‘Nitrogen Efficient Plants for Climate Smart Arable Cropping Systems’ (NCS) is a four-year, £5.9 million research project involving 200 UK farms and 17 industry partners. Funded by Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme, and delivered by Innovate UK, the project is one of the ‘cutting-edge’ farming projects receiving a share of £30m of government funding.

The consortium of UK companies, research institutes and farmer networks, led by PGRO, aims to bring about a reduction of 1.5Mt CO₂e per annum or 54% of the maximum potential for UK Agriculture.

Huge potential

The twin aims of the project are to increase pulse cropping in arable rotations to 20 per cent across the UK (currently 5 per cent), and also to develop and test new feed rations. This will help livestock farmers with the project’s second aim, to substitute up to 50 per cent of imported soya meal used in feed with more climate-friendly home-grown pulses and legumes.

These ambitions will be steered by science, but proven by farmers, through a series of paid-for on-farm trials.

“Everyone knows that pulses and legumes have considerable benefits for UK farming systems,” said PGRO chief executive Roger Vickers, who leads the NCS consortium. “But these have never been truly and accurately measured. So their value has been sorely underplayed and their potential to address the climate crisis has gone unrecognised.

“Together we can change that. We now have the science, the tools and the know-how among UK farmers, not only to tap into that potential, but to develop it further. Bringing that talent together is what lies at the heart of NCS – it’s never been done before, and there’s never been a project on this scale with this much ambition.”

Pulse Pioneers

The first stage of the project will give 200 UK farmers direct support to establish their business’ carbon baseline, using the Farm Carbon Toolkit. The GHG emissions from these farms will then be tracked throughout the project and will form a fundamental part of the dataset.

The leading innovators among them will then be paid to work with scientists to co-design crop and feeding trials to carry out on their farms.

These ‘Pulse Pioneers’ will explore ways and means for soils to thrive, crop yields to build and livestock productivity to flourish, through better use and marketing of home-grown pulses and legumes.

The on-farm progress will be based on cutting-edge technologies and farming systems, incorporating some of the latest research and innovations from leading UK institutes and tech companies. These will be underpinned by a rigorous use of data, including the UK’s first-ever full lifecycle analysis of cropping rotations and livestock systems.

How to get involved

Keen to expand the knowledge exchange beyond this core group of farmers, the project is also launching the PulsePEP (Performance Enhancing Platform), led by Adas. This will be a hub for the farmer-led community striving to achieve the best from pulse crops and reduce carbon emissions, as well as a place for discussion on best-practice pulse cropping.

The project team are urging farmers interested in being involved – or those who just have a passion for pulses – to sign up now.

“This will be the defining project of our time,” said Vickers. “It’s not just the chance for UK Agriculture to make a seismic shift towards net zero, but it’ll also deliver a prosperous and resilient way of farming for communities worldwide.

“We want farmers to join us and be part of this exciting journey of discovery. You will shape it. Your knowledge and experience will enrich the science we’re bringing together. You will inspire others and accelerate the pace of change. And together we’ll achieve a farming future that is richly rewarding and immensely gratifying.”

The project will be officially launched on the PGRO stand at this year’s Cereals Event (13-14 June), with a follow up webinar to explain more about it and what’s on offer for farmers who wish to take part on Thursday 15 June at 2pm. 

More information about the project, including links to project partners and research initiatives that underpin the project, can be found at