soil

The intricate web of relationships between physical, chemical and biological soil components underpins crop and livestock health and productivity.

Protecting soil health is critical to environmental sustainability, as soils:

• Exchange gases, such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides, with the atmosphere

• Regulate the flow of water and rainfall in the water cycle

• Provide nutrients for plant growth, by breaking down organic matter and altering chemical fertilisers

• Transform and store organic materials, as part of the terrestrial carbon cycle

• Degrade contaminants applied through human activities or left by floods and aerial deposition

A healthy soil is able to sustain, in the long term, these important functions. In a healthy soil, the interactions between chemistry (pH, nutrients and contaminants), physics (soil structure and water balance) and biology (including earthworms, microbes and plant roots) are optimised for the conditions in that place.

 

View more from AHDB GREAT Soils.

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Innovative Farmers was established in 2012 by the Soil Association with the aim of bringing scientific rigour to on-farm trials co-designed by farmers and researchers. With a focus on sustainability and resilience, groups come together on discrete topics and on-farm trials addressing the topics that matter to them.

Soil is an essential natural resource for all farmers. Over recent years many initiatives have sought to provide information and advice on soils and Soil Health, notably AHDB Great Soils. 

Practical sustainable farming regardless of labels.

Anglian Water is the largest water and water recycling company in England and Wales by geographic area. We supply water and water recycling services to almost seven million people in the East of England and Hartlepool.     

Catchment Sensitive Farming is a free farm advice programme funded by the UK government. It works with farmers, communities, and organisations across England to improve the quality of water, air, and sustainable water management.

Field drainage is installed to rapidly remove excess soil water to reduce or eliminate waterlogging and return soils to their natural field capacity. Drains can be used to control a water table or to facilitate the removal of excess water held in the upper horizons of the soil.

Tell us how you are improving your soils. Share useful resources, organisations and initiatives.

Soil health has been broken down into measurable parts to help farmers optimise crop and grassland productivity. As part of the Soil Biology and Soil Health Partnership, a project in the AHDB & BBRO GREAT Soils programme, guidance and protocols have been issued to help practitioners benchmark their soils

The standard way to measure and monitor soils has been through soils samples taken to 15-30cm in representative W patterns. A range of technologies are now available commercially and in development to provide higher resolution data across a wider range of metrics. This page provides a space to share and discuss the available and coming tools, services and technologies.

Industry Leading Agronomists.  With many farming clients, representing over one million hectares, Hutchinsons are a leading agricultural and horticultural input advice and supply company.

Today’s farmers keenly understand their roles as custodians of our farmed environment. Agriculture is a vital industry in East Anglia, but in the driest region in the UK water supplies are precious and needs safeguarding.  Anglian Water is working closely with farmers to ensure that we maintain healthy water quality as well as healthy crops and a healthy rural economy.

We supply top quality drinking water to 2.2 million customers in the south east of England and work with farmers and landowners to protect and enhance river and groundwater quality.

There is a lot of interest in soil carbon currently, due to the opportunity to store and sequester carbon in soil. It is also vital for soil health, forming part of soil organic matter.

Regenerative agriculture show and conference

Helping you protect your soil and improve its productivity.  AHDB's GREATSoils inititiative brings together practical information on soil management as well as links to soils research and knowledge exchange. Whether you need an introduction to soil biology or a detailed guide to improving field drainage, AHDB has information and guidance to support you. 

In 2021 Defra commissioned an ADAS led consortium to look at the environmental and productivity benefits of mob grazing systems in the UK. 

Some symbiotic or free-living microorganisms can fix inert di-nitrogen (N) from the air into reactive organic nitrogenous compounds.  Most biological N fixation (BNF) in farming systems occurs in the root nodules of legumes where rhizobium bacteria take photosynthates from the plant in exchange for fixing atmospheric N and returning ammonium or amides which the plant uses to form amino acids, proteins, etc.   Plants need more N than any other nutrient and N commonly limits plant growth in many ecosystems. 

Organic is a system of farming and food production. Organic farmers aim to produce high-quality food, using methods that benefit our whole food system, from people to planet, plant health to animal welfare.

Innovation for Agriculture (IfA) is an independent knowledge exchange charity that aims to bridge the gap between science and practice. 

Project objectives To quantify the impact of contrasting cover crop mixes and destruction techniques on over winter nitrate leaching, soil nitrogen supply (and hence crop nitrogen fertiliser requirements) and performance of the following cash crop. In particular to determine the: effect of cover crop species mix on the quantity and timing of nitrogen returned to the soil effect of cover crop destruction method e.g. glyphosate & min till/direct drill vs mechanical destruction & min till/direct drill To determine the timing of nitrogen release from cover crops and potential legacy (year 2) effects on nitrate leaching and crop performance

Harnessing our collective strengths to bring about a step change in more sustainable soil health practices over the next decade

Soilmentor helps you learn what healthy soils and flourishing biodiversity look like on your farm. Understand changes on your land above & below ground, make informed decisions and keep everyone in the loop.

Our new book on Understanding and fostering soil carbon sequestration edited by Cornelia Rumpel, Director of Research in the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences at the French National Research Center, provides an authoritative review of all the latest research in this important area.

Guidance from AHDB GREATSoils giving four easy-to-follow steps for assessing soil structure. 

Leading arable event The CropTec Show is returning to the East of England Showground in Peterborough on November 23 and 24. Now in its 10th year, the event will deliver the well-loved CropTec formula combining industry-leading exhibitors, the latest machinery and technology, networking and discussion opportunities as well as valuable updates on developments across the arable sector.    Tickets are free and available now by registering at www.croptecshow.com.

Guide explaining what Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) can do for your business. Catchment Sensitive Farming Advisers work with farmers to produce food in a way that protects water, air and soil; minimising losses and maximising efficiencies. Your CSF Adviser is locally based with an understanding of the challenges farmers face. They will work alongside you to take the latest advice and tailor it to best benefit your business.

Soil Benchmark hosted a workshop at the World Congress of Soil Science in Glasgow August 2022 to

Good soil structure is vital for optimising water and nutrient use efficiency; and for sustaining profitable cropping systems. Poor soil structure and compaction can reduce yields, restrict access for field operations, increase fuel use and, for high value root and vegetable crops, increase reliance on irrigation. Where there are clear signs of soil compaction, cultivations to remove the compaction may result in a yield benefit. Visual soil assessment is important to assess the extent and depth of compaction and to inform decisions on the most appropriate course of action.  

Cover crops are grown primarily to ‘protect or improve’ soils between periods of regular crop production. They can be effective at improving soil functions by increasing soil nutrient and water retention, improving soil structure/quality, reducing the risk of soil erosion, surface run-off and diffuse pollution by providing soil cover and by managing weeds or soil-borne pests.  

The Claydon Opti-Till® System, is a holistic approach to crop establishment which delivers consistent, high yielding crops at low cost, providing maximum profitability. At the centre of Opti-Till® Seed Drilling System is the Claydon direct strip Hybrid drill, with its unique leading tine technology.

GrassCheckGB is a grass monitoring project involving 50 dairy, beef and sheep farms.   Growth and quality data is published weekly throughout the growing season

Earthworms are known as ecosystem engineers due to their ability to structurally, chemically and biologically transform the soil environment in which they live.

Share resources, groups and projects that you've found helpful for soil management.

Soil biology includes a variety of soil microbes, bacteria and larger fauna such as earthworms and collembolans.

H3

‘Healthy soil, Healthy food and Healthy people’

Established in 1971, Cambridge based Delta-T Devices specialises in measurement sensors and monitoring systems for agriculture and horticulture.

ipaast-czo: Interoperable Precision Agricultural and Archaeological Sensing Technologies Remote and near-surface sensing technologies such as satellite imaging, UAV imaging, and geophysical survey are used in the practice of precision agriculture to support farmers and land managers to make data-driven management decisions. Archaeologists use many of these same sensing technologies to investigate the buried evidence for past human activities and make this evidence for the heritage of agricultural landscapes visible. Fundamentally, practitioners and researchers in both precision agriculture and archaeology are invested in developing a better understanding of soil conditions and their impacts on plant development by using advanced sensing technologies and related analytical methods. Consequently, there is a vast, untapped potential for sharing data and analytical approaches, enabling new research in both domains at an unprecedented scale and level of detail, leading to enhanced interpretations of the character of the agricultural landscape.    

Providing accurate measurements that enable nature based solutions

Physical and online conference at Harper Adams Soil & Water Management Centre on 7th December.

Results from an Innovative Farmers Field Lab with University of Lincoln and Anglian Water showed benefits from drilling rather than broadcasting to establish a catch crop.   

Guidance from AHDB to help adapt arable cultivations on a rotational basis Download the Guide, watch videos and use the tools.

Anglian Water were involved with UK agricultural colleges, CSF, EA and Natural England to run the Great Farm Challenge. This involved interactive workshops and a farm visit with each college. Each college then wrote up a report about their learnings and the students who performed the best were invited to a GFC Final Day to present thier findings. Winners recieved vouchers and a farming press subcription. GFC hasnt run for the last year- is this something the industry would like to bring back?

Calling all agronomists! Sign up for the last few places at Soil Benchmark's event at NIAB on 7th December - hear from Dr Elizabeth Stockdale and join some of the UK's leading agronomists in the discussion on Farm Data and the Future of Agronomy

Report from European Environment Agency giving over of the metrics, challenges and plans for measuring soil health across Europe.  

The VESS is an approach you can use to assess soil structure.   Developed by Aarhus and

Webinar hosted by GWCT with David Powlson - watch the video below.

Guide by Graham Shepherd (Landcare Research, New Zealand) giving an approach to assessing soil qu

Guide from FIBL and Organic Research Centre giving the fundamentals of soil fertility.

Managing nutrients effectively is crucial for our soils, crops, livestock and environment. There are many resources and initiatives available to help. 

In February 2018, ADAS, AHDB and Defra launched the Grass and herbal leys farm network. The network is a partnership between farmers, researchers and industry and provides a platform to investigate the long term impacts of leys in rotations, such as: Quantifying changes in soil organic matter and soil health from introducing temporary grass/herbal leys across a range of soil types and rainfall areas. Quantifying subsequent changes to soil organic matter and soil health following the destruction of the temporary grass/herbal leys and return to arable production. Investigating the effectiveness of grass/herbal leys in controlling blackgrass in ‘problem’ fields.

The Morley Agricultural Foundation is a charity that supports farming in the East of England by funding agricultural research, student studies, professional development of farmers and others and a variety of educational projects for school age children.

Funded by AHDB and BBRO, this five-year Soil Biology and Soil Health Partnership is a cross-sector programme of research and knowledge exchange. The programme is designed to help farmers and growers maintain and improve the productivity of UK agricultural and horticultural systems, through better understanding of soil biology and soil health. See https://ahdb.org.uk/soil-biology-and-soil-health-partnership

Organic materials, including livestock manures, biosolids, compost and digestate contain valuable plant nutrients which can save farmers money on their fertiliser bills, and organic matter which can help improve soil quality.

Soil organic matter (OM) is all living or once-living materials in the soil.  OM provides a direct source of energy/food for many soil organisms: it is the fuel in the soil food web.  Turnover of OM successively releases and immobilises elements vital to the nutrition of crops. 

International Remote Conference. 9-10 February 2022, 10:00 (EET)

Healthy, well-managed soils are the foundation for productive farming systems. Taking steps to improve soil health is a vital part of future-proofing all farms against the challenges of climate change and changing government support, by supporting good yields and reducing environmental impacts.   Every farm and field is different and there is no single approach for creating healthy soils. These printable guides give targeted guidance for a range of farming systems. They have been developed by a wide-ranging partnership across the farming industry brought together by the UK Soil Health Initiative, the WWF-Tesco Partnership and CFE to help you to identify the actions you can take to better manage soils for a sustainable future. https://www.cfeonline.org.uk/environmental-management/soils/uk-soil-health-initiative-guides/

Interest is growing in using legumes like lucerne or clover as a permanent understory to cereal crops to provide nitrogen through the season.

Series of 20 videos from USA exploring Regenerative Agriculture and the "Future of Agriculture for Ecosystems and Human Health"

Soil is a major source of nutrients needed by plants for growth.

The FarmSmarter app is an agri-tech decision making service aimed at smallholder farmers.  Our primary focus is to support smallholder farmers in achieving sustainable profitable production developing regions. We are extending our development to cover sustainable farming practices and improvement of biodiversity and soil health in the UK and Europe for future additions to the FarmSmarter digital toolkit.

A joint AFCP and NIAB event exploring what research is needed by farmers and stakeholders.  Hear from researchers looking at cover crops for soil structure and health; fungus and plant nutrient exchange; alleviating subsoil compaction; and more.

6 October 2023: AFBI Soils Conference - La Mon Hotel and Country Club, Belfast

We are pleased to announce that the next British Society of Soil Science Annual Conference will be a joint event with the Soil Science Society of Ireland and take place in Belfast on Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 December 2023.

Cover crop establishment is affected by several factors, including species, soil type, weather and the rotation. Time of sowing, seed rates and establishment methods all need to be considered.

Would you like to learn how to create healthy soils and resilient fields while reducing reliance on inputs, even during droughts?

Soil is the basis of every grassland system and aiming to constantly improve soil health will pay dividends in grassland productivity.

Certain crops (potatoes, sugar beet, maize, field vegetables) within a wider arable rotation pose increased risk of soil loss or degradation. Often described as ‘risky’ these crops may require additional management to ensure that field conditions are favourable and that there is no long-term disruption to soil functionality or structure.

Counting earthworms is a simple method for assessing soil biological health

Learn about the benefits of livestock in the arable rotation. See our information on forage crops, cover crops, outdoor pigs, farmyard manure and more.

Executive summary for policymakers and researchers

Cover crops are usually planted within arable rotations between cash crops. They provide a multitude of benefits including building soil fertility, improving soil health and enhancing above and below ground biodiversity.  They provide a multitude of benefits including building soil fertility, improving soil health and enhancing above and below ground biodiversity.  

Improving soils by building soil organic matter is a win, win situation for everyone.

Understanding the factors that impact nutrient use efficiency (NUE) is key to improving nutrient management planning.

Join this online broadcast with Sean Cameron to learn about soil preservation techniques, carbon capture in agriculture, leadership and more.

This guide intends to highlight to farmers and crofters who are considering sowing a grassland herbal lay what species to consider.

SCI invites you to join leading experts and change-makers to explore the potential of regenerative agriculture, a revolutionary approach to farming that goes beyond sustainability.

This report reviews the economic benefits that can be achieved from reduced tillage.

Every farm and field is different, with a wide interplay of different factors impacting on optimum soil management between them.

Applying soil health principles at scale is a challenge, with many farmers looking to stop ploughing but still relying on chemical weed killers and those unwilling to use chemical weed killers still relying on ploughing.

Shaping our relationship to the soil.

Adding organic materials can potentially lead to better drainage, more resilient soil, more efficient irrigation, higher crop yields and better crop quality.

This OGA webinar will give an overview of mechanised tillage, from bed preparation to weed control, looking at cultivation tools and their use in various contexts.

Soil organic matter (SOM) serves as an important indicator of soil health.

Six Simple Steps for your soil to help improve the performance, health and long-term sustainability of your land

This recording from the Oxford Real Farming Conference is of a discussion between farmers involved in the Innovative Farmers Bale grazing project.

Earthworms are an excellent indicator of soil health given their many crucial roles and sensitivity to issues such as low pH, compaction, water logging and intensive cultivations.

Healthy soils are important for the future of crop production in Europe and healthy crop rotations are a pre-requisite to maintain, improve or restore soil health. Nematodes and soil-borne pathogens are causing a threat to soil health. The decision support tools developed by the EU thematic network Best4Soil help the sustainable control of these threats.

With soil health promoted as being key to future agricultural policy (plus new measures of succes

Over the past few decades farms have become increasingly specialised, with arable growers losing

A group of farmers in the Evenlode catchment is working working with Thames Water and Atkins Glob

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