£1.2m project aims to unearth secrets of profitable soils

British farmers looking to nurse their soils back to health will benefit from £1.2m of new AHDB research funding, while those north of the border can access a new guide.

It can take 500 years to replace 25mm (1in) of topsoil, yet in the UK it is estimated that 2.9m tonnes of earth are eroded each year, and soil quality is diminished by poor practices.

See also: Tips to help control clubroot in oilseed rape

This recognition of the need to focus on soil is behind the AHDB-funded research partnership, which aims to unearth the secrets of profitable soils throughout the rotation

Combining investment from AHDB’s Potatoes, Cereals and Oilseeds and Horticulture sectors, the four interrelated projects will form a five-year programme of research to help farmers optimise soil and water management decisions across rotations.

It will tap into an established network of farm-based initiatives, including the AHDB SPot and Monitor Farms, and also commercial sites so that growers can have direct access to trials.

Mike Storey, AHDB head of resource management, said: “There has been a lot of work on the impact of soil conditions, cultivations and management on individual crop performance, but we believe this new programme is unique in its scale and ambition.

It will generate new data and knowledge to answer challenges across whole rotations and enable farmers to make rewarding and sustainable rotational decisions.

“Central to this programme is a strong focus on knowledge exchange, giving farmers access to trials, tools and data, as well as encouraging a two-way flow of information to help bridge the gap between robust science and practical on-farm solutions,” he says.

In the meantime, Scottish growers will benefit from a new guide, Valuing Your Soils, published this week by Scotland’s Rural College as a downloadable PDF. 

Mark Aitken, principal policy officer for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said: “The guide encourages good management practices that will improve soil quality, help maintain healthy soils and in turn improve farm profits and protect the environment.


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