BETTER SOIL management is needed to overcome challenges posed by impending cross-compliance measures, growers have been told.

That was the main theme from speakers at the Institute for Agricultural Engineers “Managing Soils for the 21st Century” conference (Nov 3).

Climate change, environmental pressures and a predicted doubling of the world‘s population by 2050 add to the need for better soil management, delegates heard.

“Soil offers the solution to these pressures. How we manage them is key to the future of our environmental sustainability,” said conference chairman Peter Kendall.

Adopting the latest technology to manage soils can help meet new legislation and deliver increases in productivity, growers were told.

Digital information systems are one example of how technology can help improve soil management, explained Mark Kibblewhite from the National Soil Resources Institute (NSRI).

These systems give a better understanding of variations in soil properties and greatly enhance the opportunities for precision land management, he said.

“There is also a change in the way we perceive soil – we must look more at the biology. Soil should be seen as a living system in its own right.”

Reducing soil compaction by using inflation tyres or tracks was another example of how technological advances can help soil management, added the NSRI‘s Dick Godwin.

Limiting compaction can help improve water infiltration, so reducing surface run-off and erosion, he said.

With soil management featuring heavily in the new cross compliance measures and Entry Level Scheme, there will be greater opportunities to improve soils in the future, he said.

But, the main challenge for the industry was to get those messages across to farmers, he and other speakers believed.