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SoilBioHedge

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Jonathan Leake gives an overview of his project and early results.

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SoilBioHedge

  1. 1. Prof. Jonathan Leake Prof. Duncan Cameron Prof. Rob Freckleton Prof. Mike Burrell Prof. Steve Banwart Dr Dylan Childs Dr Jill Edmondson Ruth Wade Prof. Les Firbank Prof. Joe Holden Dr Pippa Chapman Dr Richard Grayson Prof. Mark Hodson Dr Thorunn Helgason SoilBioHedge Harnessing hedgerow soil biodiversity for restoration of arable soil quality and resilience to climatic extremes and land use changes. Dr Lisa Norton, Dr Alastair Leake, Dr Nicola Hinton, Dr Matthew Shepherd, Dr Derek Pedley, Dr Emma Sherlock, Dr Wendy Seal Peter Burgis Oliver Pilbeam Harnessing fundamental biological and ecosystem science to create more resilient and sustainable farming systems
  2. 2. Wood-to-Hedge-to-Field Leeds University Farm > 20 years continuous arable cultivation 60% of years growing winter wheat. Ewan Marshall-Harries MBiolSci project 2013
  3. 3. Wood Hedge 2 m 32 mGrassy strip margin Conventional Arable Field Wood-To-Field bioassay of wheat ~70% Ewan Marshall-Harries MBiolSci project 2013
  4. 4. Hedge 2 m 32 mGrassy strip margin Conventional Arable Field
  5. 5. Growing crops in arable land that is conventionally tilled and fertilized every year for decades has depleted soil organic carbon, destroyed soil macro- aggregates, degraded soil water-and nutrient-holding capacity, and impaired the functioning of mycorrhizal fungi that help maintain soil structure and SOC. 33% decline in water- holding capacity > 50% loss
  6. 6. Preliminary results Tiffany Aslam Effects of arable farming on soil fauna 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Hedgerow Boundary 1m 2m 4m 8m 16m 32m Enchytraeidabundance0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 Hedgerow Boundary 1m 2m 4m 8m 16m 32m Earthwormabundance Earthworms * Effect of distance when data grouped (‘margin’ (hedgerow, boundary); ‘field’ (1-32m) p = 0.035 Enchytraeid worms ** Effect of distance p = 0.001 * Effect of crop legacy p = 0.034 (OSR < VP < WW)
  7. 7. Oniscus asellus a common woodlouse has18,464 records whereas the most common earthworm A. caliginosa has only 584 records Earthworms- in the UK amongst the least recorded species.
  8. 8. Mean per sample 6.2 7.6 3.4 3.6 3.6 Mummey et al., (2006)
  9. 9. Modern agriculture severely reduces AM fungal diversity compared to woodland No. of samples in each Genus Arable Glomus Scutellospora Acaulospora 42 98 97 1 15 1 (Helgason et al., 1998)
  10. 10. Do hedgerows and field margins preserve important functional soil biodiversity? Can we harness this to restore degraded soil structure and function in arable fields? UK average field size =12 ha (400m x 300m); 960,000 km of field edges, 500,000 km hedgerow. Earthworm and / or mycorrhiza colonization at 2.5-15 m per year into new leys would cover 8-48% of a 12 ha field area in 3 years. After decades of research on soil biodiversity, the iconic hedgerow component of the British farm landscape, remains unstudied as a potential biodiversity refugia for AM fungi, and earthworms both of which are vital engineers of soil quality but depleted by arable farming. Countryside Survey Hypothesis: Leys that connect to hedgerows and grassy unploughed margins of arable fields enable key ecosystem- bioengineers (earthworms and mycorrhizal fungi) to colonise from these refugia thereby increasing the rate of restoration of soil quality compared to leys unconnected to field margins. Benefits from these soil-organism interactions include increases in water- stable macroaggregates, water holding capacity, infiltration rates, SOC storage, resilience to drought and excess water, and yields of subsequent crops.
  11. 11. Research Objectives 1. Determine, for the first time, the importance of landscape connectivity from hedgerows to arable fields via ryegrass-clover leys in restoring functional biodiversity, soil quality (macroaggregates, carbon storage, hydrological function) and resilience to drought and excess rainfall in arable farming. SoilBioHedge 2. Deliver an integrated and predictive understanding of the mechanisms by which soil biota and soil functions recover from impacts of conventional arable farming and extreme climatic events- combining metabolomic and metagenomic analyses to resolve the chemicals and communities of organisms involved in macroaggregate formation. 3. Determine the spatial and temporal scales over which recovery occurs with particular focus on the role of dispersal of the ecosystem bioengineers - earthworms and mycorrhizal fungi - from hedgerow and field margin reservoirs to leys that promote soil quality restoration, macroaggregate formation and improved crop performance. 4. Establish an integrative and predictive spatial-temporal model of soil quality change at field-to-landscape-scale integrating the role of dispersal of hedgerow and field margin biodiversity into arable land resulting from land use and management change involving grass-clover leys and reduced tillage.
  12. 12. i) Hedge-to-Field Experiments Determine spatial / temporal changes in soil structure, functioning and biodiversity (hydrology, nitrate leaching, metagenomics, metabolomics, AM and earthworm populations): 2. Along grass-to-arable strips sown with winter wheat under conventional tillage and minimal tillage. SoilBioHedge 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1. Along arable-to-ley strips connected or disconnected to the field margin, and across a field converted to ley in 2012.
  13. 13. Permanent pasture Permanent pasture Arable to pasture Pasture to arable Arable Arable i) Hedge-to-Field Experiments
  14. 14. Height av. 3m (1.8m – 4.8m) Width av. 1m (28cm – 131cm) Hedges are made up of 12 species Dominant species - 60% Hawthorn (0-100%) 20% Elder (0-60%) 10% Holly (0-50%) <10% Hazel (0-20%) <10% Dog rose (0-20%) <10% Dogwood (0-20%) Other species present - Black thorn, Red Alder, Acer, Ash, Spindle, Pear Hedgerow characteristics Ruth Wade
  15. 15. Dog rose Rosa canina White bryony Bryony dioica Holly Ilex aquifolium Elder Sambucas nigra Galium aparine Bramble Rubus Spindle Euonymus europaeus Hawthorn Crataegus spp Field bindweed Convolvulus arvensis Dogwood Cornus sanguinea Hazel Corylus Black bryony Tamus communis Nettle Urtica dioica Pear Pryrus Thistle Cirsium vulgare
  16. 16. Measurement Good structural condition Measured hedges at Spen Farm Height >1m av. 3m Width >1.5m av. 1m Vertical gappiness <10% Av. <20% Gaps No gaps >5m 1 gap of >5m Non-native species cover >10% <10% Base height of canopy <0.5m Av. 65cm Distance between centre of hedge and disturbed ground >2m Av. 2m Width of perennial vegetation 1m Av. 1m Av. 3.7 woody species per 30m section of hedge in Great Britain Av. 3.1 woody species in measured hedges at Spen Farm 31% of ‘managed’ hedges were in good structural condition in Great Britain 2007. Only 10% of ‘managed’ hedges on arable land were in both good structural condition and had appropriately managed margins in Great Britain 2007. (Countryside Survey, 2007)
  17. 17. Prof. Mark Hodson Baseline Earthworm survey in spring 2015 6 earthworm species N=3 N=3 N=18 Allolobophora chlorotica Aporrectodea rosea Lumbricus castaneus Eisenia fetida Aporrectodea longa Lumbricus terrestris Arable Field Hedge Margin Field Epigeic Endogeic Anecic
  18. 18. Control (field) Connected Ley Unconnected Ley Example layout of ley strips and control areas of the field No-Spray areas - 1.2 m deep 13 m long stainless steel mesh curtain to bedrock Ground protection mats for tramlines
  19. 19. Schematic diagram of Poplar Field Poplars Control (field) Connected Ley Unconnected Ley No-Spray areas -
  20. 20. Penetrometer resistance before and after ploughingDr Richard Grayson Field “tramline” Connected leyUnconnected ley
  21. 21. Soil moisture contentDr Richard Grayson Wheat field control Connected ley unconnected ley
  22. 22. In–field weather stations and sensors Automated soil moisture and temperature measurements, rainfall, air temperature, solar radiation, windspeed.
  23. 23. >250 µm >250 µm Rebecca Crabtree Unpublished MBiolSci project supervised by JR Leake 2014
  24. 24. Soil bulk density coring and SOC Rhizon samplers for N leaching
  25. 25. Ongoing work: Soil aggregation Soil organic matter in different aggregate sizes Soil aggregate metabolomics and metagenomics Mycorrhizal community analyses Soil microbial communities Soil hydrology, faunal macropores Soil solution nitrogen
  26. 26. ii) Landscape-Scale Hedge-to-Field Transects Determine spatio-temporal variation in soil quality, biodiversity and ecosystem engineers in pairs of long-term arable fields and adjacent fields converted from arable-to-pasture over two time periods (1-3 & >3 years) in our existing networks of over 100 arable farms across England that provide a range of soil types, and conventional, organic, and minimal tillage management (n=6 reps; 54 total). SoilBioHedge iii) Field-to-Landscape Scale Modelling (structural equation modelling) Establish an integrative and predictive spatiotemporal mathematical model of soil quality change at field-to-landscape-scale, including the role of dispersal of hedgerow and field margin biodiversity into arable land resulting from land use and management change involving leys. The model will use existing Countryside Survey datasets on hedgerow abundance per km2, and national digital soil map data and integrate them with mechanistic understanding of SOC change and soil aggregation through the synergistic actions of roots, AM, and earthworms from our experiments (i) and landscape-scale transect observations (ii). Mesocosm studies of monoliths from the field exposed to simulated drought and flooding to establish effects on soil and crop resilience.
  27. 27. Anticipated research outcomes 1. Deliver an integrated and predictive understanding of the mechanisms by which key ecosystem engineer organisms (grasses, AM, earthworms) interact to enable soil quality to recover from impacts of conventional arable farming and improve soil and crop resilience to extreme weather (drought, excess rain). 2. Provide the first comprehensive assessment of hedgerows and field margins as biodiversity refugia for earthworms and mycorrhizal fungi. 3. Provide the first detailed assessment of rates of biodiversity dispersal from hedge-to-field and the role of landscape connectivity, soil type and land management (conventional arable, organic arable, reduced tillage and inclusion of leys in rotations) on these rates. 4. Develop a web-based software application tool to guide land managers in the optimal use of midfield strips or whole field leys for soil quality restoration in arable fields under different kinds of management and soil types to facilitate early translation of the research findings to field applications to improve UK soil quality and harness hedgerow and field margin biodiversity. SoilBioHedge
  28. 28. Acknowledgements: Funders and helpers Martin Lappage Peter Burgis David Jones Ewan Marshall-Harries Dr Lisa Norton, Dr Alastair Leake, Dr Nicola Hinton, Dr Matthew Shepherd, Dr Derek Pedley, Dr Emma Sherlock, Dr Wendy Seal Peter Burgis Oliver Pilbeam
  29. 29. “A macropore volume of 0.23–2% of total soil volume accounted for 74–100% of total water flow (Alaoui & Helbling 2006), while Lin et al. (1996) reported that 10% of pores >0.06 mm contributed about 89% of total water flow”. Work conducted at Leeds University farm

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