The Week in Soil

Wildlife experts fear the wildfire on Saddleworth Moor could dramatically impact soil biodiversity on the 9000-years-old peatland there. “Soil organisms and invertebrates, including earthworms, centipedes and millipedes, which help to keep the moss healthy by bringing minerals to the surface will have died and will take years to repopulate.”

A series of practical videos have been published by Innovation for Agriculture to help farmers understand and improve soil health.  These showcase easy-to-set-up soil demonstrations that can be carried out by farmers and land managers in their own kitchens. The videos highlight the importance of soil health and include practical techniques to help improve the overall health of soils in the UK.

Yorkshire Water and Future Food Solutions is spearheading a collaborative land-based programme which sees farmers, global food and drink brands, NGO’s and supply chain partners working together on an initiative to improve soil health – one they claim is the "first of its kind".

Central Scotland farmers have scooped the top awards in the James Hutton Institute’s (JHI) annual best soil competition.  The overall award, announced at the Highland Show, went to John Weir of Lacesston Farm near Cupar, whose soil had good structure in large part due to its organic matter content, thus making it resistant to erosion and degradation,.

“When faced with bare facts such as declining soil fertility, farming’s contribution to the public discourse can no longer be limited to a staunch defence of the status quo”. So writes Catherine Broomfield in this week’s Guardian.

 “A scrappy movement that’s taking off globally” – that’s how the New York Times describes agroecology – before going on to explain it as a farming yardstick that measures not only bushels and calories but by how well food nourishes people while regenerating soil and water and helping more farmers make a good living. 

A Cotswold farmer is experimenting with a weed control technique called crimping, made popular in the US – whereby cover crops slowly die into a weed-supressing mat – to reduce his fuel bill, while also improving the soil.

By modelling his farm’s soil capabilities, rainfall, spraying timings and crop development throughout the growing season a Norfolk farmer has achieved a 95% yield potential – and with it the coveted prize of national beet farmer of the year.