SOMETIMES the words are taken out of your mouth. This time it was ink from my pen.

James Porter’s 'Farmer's View' article on March 16 about cover crops, organic matter and carbon in soil pre-empted me. Dammit! or maybe not dammit as James obviously knows far more about it than me and if he keeps writing about it, we will all get some tips on the right way to go.

Continuing the theme, a friend recently gave me the book 'Dirt to soil', by Gabe Brown, which I have read twice. Brown farms on the Prairie of North Dakota, where drought is a constant spectre. When he started farming, he did what everyone else did and quickly stared ruin in the face.

A series of meetings, call them happy coincidences, led to him completely altering his methods of farming. The message from the book, which describes his method as 'regenerative', is as follows:

* Limited soil disturbance – ‘no till’ preserves root structure and encourages build of carbon in the soil.

* Armour plate the soil – ensure that there are no bare patches and grow cover crops over the fallow period.

* Diversity of plant and animal species – plants are symbiotic and encourage unrelated species to thrive.

* Encourage year round root development – promotes build-up of soil carbon.

* Integrate animals into the system – cattle, sheep, poultry, and bees.

Not only does Gabe Brown explain in detail what he has done on his own farm, but he writes of others in North America, many of them initially sceptical, who have successfully followed his example in varying climatic situations.

Over the years, I have heard of these new dawns before. Other than with a few zealots, they have seldom caught on. Maybe this one will.

Certainly, 'soil' is talked about as never before and the Government has vowed to change support to something greener. The concern is that environmentalists will press their own agendas and we will be landed with something crackpot, costly and compulsory.

We already do some of the things Gabe Brown recommends without really thinking of it as 'greening'. Because, like many, we were short of straw last autumn, we sowed stubble turnips, after discs into the stubble.

This was in every way a success. No doubt this was largely because of the exceptionally growthy autumn and mild, dry winter. It doesn’t always happen this way.

I remember tile drains being clogged with kale roots, cows up to their knees in mud and sometimes taking off with electric wire wrapped round their legs. We often end fighting last year’s war and may in future need to rein in our urge to expand our forage if moisture levels dictate.

At Roxburgh Mains our policy has changed over 25 years from two-thirds crop and one-third grass to two-thirds grass and one-third cropping. The crops are now all spring sown.

Many of the cattle and sheep are summered on grass parks and are only on the farm in winter. This results in a heavy dung loading.

In my youth, I was always told that the benefit of farm yard manure was what it does, rather than what it is. Walking behind a trailer spreading it with a graip, I thought that it was more trouble than it was worth.

Back then, almost every farm had livestock of some sort. Indeed, it was often said that they only profit in feeding cattle was the value of their dung.

Nowadays, comparatively few low ground farms carry a sheep flock or feed cattle. It is difficult to see this trend reversing, both for social reasons and also that field boundaries have deteriorated.

If cover cropping becomes compulsory for claiming subsidy, hopefully it might be deemed extra green to grow crops which can be grazed, rather than destroyed before incorporating. Either way, it would seem that the latter would have to be by ploughing rather than min till.

Benefits from Brexit aren’t easily found, or maybe I am just one of the 40% of farmers who voted to remain in the EU to think that. To our surprise, it has resulted in an early boost to our bank balance.

Over the past few years the demand from central Europe for Aberdeen-Angus cattle, embryos and semen has been encouraging. We are very keen that this trend continues and have been careful to send only what we consider above average genetics.

Hopefully, this will enable the breed to compete well with these countries’ own native breeds and gain market share. Maybe, in time, they will have cattle good enough to bring back to Britain.

Because our Continental clients have been concerned that Brexit will increase the difficulties of importing new blood, they have moved forward their buying programmes.

It is interesting that Continental requirements are for cattle which are non-carriers of the myostatin [double muscled] gene. At the same time, semen from two of our bulls, now owned by Cogent, has been exported to Brazil, resulting in 10,000 calves. The dams are Nelore, which is their equivalent to the North American Brahman breed. The calves, like their mothers, have long droopy ears and large folds of skin, but still look good beef animals.

But, the Brazilians want bulls with the myostatin gene. They have moved away from North American bulls because their offspring don’t get to decent market weights.

The current pre-occupation with greening brings back echoes of lang syne. In a spoof of Dorset farmer, Ralph Wightman – who featured regularly on BBC radio’s 'Any questions' – there was a character on the comedy programme 'Beyond our Ken' called, Arthur Fallowfield. His answer to any question that was asked was: “Oy think the aanswer loys in the soil”.

Better tell it to the politicians.