Soil erosion. I have been trying to get my head around this topic for the past few weeks as I have been working on my natural resource science project.


The project title has been: Investigating the nature of the soil, its qualities and vulnerabilities, in a chosen field on the Harper farm.

I have been using a range of laboratory and field-based experiments and observations to investigate. One of these experiments has been to dig a soil profile pit. Although it might sound as if students have been having fun digging big holes everywhere and turning growing crops into a mess, there has been a more serious side to this exercise.

The profile pit is very useful for looking at the soil structure – particularly when looking at particles such as sub-angular blockies, as different shapes indicate any structural problems.

My pit highlighted that my chosen ground is suffering from compaction problems, often around the plough pan level and in the subsoil.

As well as the field experiments, samples that I collected have been analysed in the laboratories and tested for bulk density, organic matter content and particle sizes. This has involved washing, heating, burning and weighing the soil. With the results from these experiments, I have been able to make conclusions about it, as well as recommendations to correct problems with structure.

Meanwhile, Student Union elections have recently taken place. Promotional posters, banners, slogans and campaigns have been a common sight around campus in the run-up to the annual elections.

The elections were spread over two evenings and filled with plenty of banter. A new enthusiastic and ambitious SU has now been elected for the next 12 months.

I have received the results of the two exams that I took at the end of last term, with varying responses. The first result, Crop Production, came back as an A grade, which was a bit of a shock; and I later went on to find out in lecture I had scored the highest mark in the group.

However the biosciences result was disappointing as I scored an E grade. Fortunately I have the opportunity to re-take the exam in June and before then readdress the areas that I did not do so well in.

Continuing with biosciences, first-year agriculture students have begun learning about microbiology in lectures and tutorials. During tutorial sessions I have been collecting and growing bacteria using swabs and agar plates, with some interesting results. As well as this, I have been examining protozoa under a microscope in the laboratories. These tiny cells move around freely in liquid on a microscope slide and it has become strangely entertaining watching them as they dart off in all directions.

Over the last few weeks I have enjoyed watching Jimmy Doherty’s new programme, Jimmy’s Global Harvest. The scale of some of the farming operations that were shown, particularly in Brazil and America, was a real eye-opener. One of the clips of numerous combines working in one field, closely followed by cultivators and drills, was staggering.

As the second term continues to fly by and the evenings begin to stay lighter for longer, I am eagerly looking forward to the charitable tractor pull planned for tomorrow (20 February).

Organised in aid of RABI, the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, the event will involve teams of five pulling tractors in a 30m head-to-head race. It should be great fun, full of Harper spirit and a nice way to take the mind off soil erosion.


Steve Mears, 18, is in the first year of a four-year degree in Agriculture with Mechanisation at Harper Adams in Shropshire