Unilever’s mint and mustard farmers move to regenerative agriculture

20 March 2024 | Muriel Cozier

‘Trialling these regenerative agricultural practices will help create much needed long-term resilience.’

Unilever has said that its farmers in the UK growing mint and mustard for the production of Colman's mustard will be using regenerative agricultural methods with the aim of supporting soil health. The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), working on the project as technical partner, has already collected and established baseline data with farmers to set up a framework for measuring the impact the new practices are having.

Partnering with mint and mustard farmers around Norwich and Peterborough, the regenerative agriculture trials will include practices on: cover and companion planting, alternative pest control, digital irrigation scheduling and reduced cultivation. Unilever said that it hopes the mix of practices will ‘help alleviate several specific challenges facing mint and mustard farmers.’ These challenges include insect damage and a dependence on imported fertilisers. The first crops based on the new practices will be harvested in July. Audited data is set to be released in 2025.

‘Trialling these regenerative agricultural practices will help create much needed long-term resilence in the agricultural value chain against climate-related impacts,’ said James Holmes, Unilever plant science and technology lead.

The project is supported by the company’s climate and nature fund, and is part of a wider global roadmap where Unilever is working to protect and regenerate 1.5 million hectares of land, forests and oceans by 2030.

It follows on from work that Unilever has been doing for a number of years where it set out regenerative agriculture principles focused on working with farmers and supply chains around the world to apply practices that contribute to net zero, protect soils and ensure food security.

The focus on growing produce sustainably is backed by an increasing body of research. Work published in SCI’s journal Pest Management Science and reported in C&I set out how researchers in the US recreated the aroma of a fungus that repels spotted-wing drosophila, a fruit fly that is a destructive pest of berries and cherries. By recreating the aroma of the fungus the researchers were able to trick the flies into perceiving healthy fruit as infected.

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