The NCS Project 

Launched in May 2023 the NCS is an ambitious,  industry leading, four-year, £5.9M research project involving 200 UK farms and 17 industry partners, funded by Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme, and delivered by Innovate UK.

Led by the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) the project aims to bring about a reduction of 1.5Mt CO2e per annum or 54% of the maximum potential for UK agriculture. The bold aims of the NCS is to firstly increase pulse cropping in arable rotations to 20%, from the current 5%, and to develop and test wider adoption of their end uses in livestock feed. This will help livestock farmers to achieve the projects second aim, to substitute up to 50% of imported SBM used in feed rations with more climate-friendly homegrown pulses and legumes.

Increasing pulse and legume cropping areas to the rotational optimum, of 20% (1M ha) across UK farms, would reduce nitrogen fertiliser use by 233,000t, resulting in 0.55t of CO2e reduction. Increased pulse and legume crops used in animal feed, could replace up to 50% of imported SBM. This would deliver a further reduction of 0.7Mt of CO2e. Pulses are a climate-friendly nitrogen fixing crop and the residual nitrogen left in the soil would see a further reduction of 0.25Mt of CO2e as well as an increase in soil health and crop yield.

Our Role in the Project 

McArthur BDC is a work package lead within the NCS project supporting other partners and conducting experimental, on farm bean processing trials. As part of the experimental work, samples of beans will be dehulled using the JK Machinery JHP07 horizontal peeler, which removes the outer hull of the bean containing non-digestible fibre (NDF) and anti-nutritional factors (ANF). The beans then enter a JK Machinery JCC08 sieve cleaner to remove the hulls and are then transported to a Mecmar roaster.

The beans processed in the trials will be analysed by our academic partner, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). The in vitro analysis will look at improvements in nutritive value with the most promising results being progressed to digestibility and feeding trials in broilers. Trials are also being conducted in conjuction with First Milk and LC Beef Nutrition to study the potential benefits in ruminants.

These trials build on related research carried out by SRUC as part of the ‘Green Pig Project’, which looked at the suitability of peas and beans within pig diets and concluded that both were viable homegrown alternatives to SBM in commercial finishing settings.

The NCS project, including McArthur BDC's work package, will provide UK farmers and policy makers with the information, guidance and evidence to help UK agriculture reduce carbon emissions by 1.5MT CO2e per annum and work towards the country's net zero aspirations.