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Soils event 2018 combined presentations

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On the 22nd June 201, Environmental experts, politicians and representatives from the agricultural sector gathered to discuss how the UK can better manage its soils for the benefit of people and the environment. The conference, Creating resilient catchments: Better Soil Management, was organised by Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT) and brought together key bodies and individuals to understand the drivers and interests in soil management, paving the way for future collaboration.

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Soils event 2018 combined presentations

  1. 1. Soils: What are they good for? By Dr Laurence Couldrick Westcountry Rivers Trust
  2. 2. “Despite all our accomplishments, we owe our existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact it rains”
  3. 3. BIOLOGICAL CHEMICAL PHYSICAL
  4. 4. “I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”
  5. 5. BIOLOGICAL CHEMICAL PHYSICAL So how healthy is your biggest asset?
  6. 6. Asset condition Maintain your car • Increase fuel efficiency • Gets you from A to B • Reduces stress • Less emissions • Reduced road debris • Reduced oil leaks • Reduced risk to others
  7. 7. Asset condition Maintain your soil • Nutrient efficiency • Higher yields • Reduced stress • Maintains summer flows • Decreases flood risk • Captures carbon • Reduces pollution • Provides habitat
  8. 8. So who cares?
  9. 9. Not all issues come from soils… …..but…
  10. 10. ….soils do drive a lot
  11. 11. Rainfall acceptance Freely draining soils over permeable slates Slowly draining soils with impermeable shallow clay Waterlogged uplands Freely draining soils over permeable sandstones
  12. 12. Cattle density
  13. 13. Combined Risk
  14. 14. ….soils do drive a lot
  15. 15. ….soils do drive a lot
  16. 16. So what do we need to do?
  17. 17. Farmer Landlord Agronomist Advisor Land Agent FamilyPeers LenderBuyer Vet Insurer Supplier Contractor Regulator Working together
  18. 18. We all need to work together to Act on Soils Thanks for listening
  19. 19. The state of South West soils Dr Richard Smith Technical Specialist – Environment Agency
  20. 20. Localised flooding
  21. 21. The cause?
  22. 22. Poor soil condition Good soil condition
  23. 23. Costs?
  24. 24. Soil compaction
  25. 25. Perched water?
  26. 26. Undersown Chisel plough Stubble Cover crop 53 litres 1litre 228 litres 179 litres
  27. 27. Natural runoff?
  28. 28. Runoff experiments at Boscastle 60% runoff from grassland with moderate / poor soil structure 2% runoff from grassland with good soil structure
  29. 29. BROWN SOILS - naturally well drained GLEY SOILS - naturally poorly drained Can accept about 200mm rainfall Can accept about 30mm rainfall
  30. 30. Saturation excess overland flow Infiltration excess overland flow 1 2 Through flow – Freely draining soil and substrata1 2 Slowly permeable soil and substrata
  31. 31. Soil metrics - compaction
  32. 32. Soil structure degradation in the South West during winter months © 2013 British Society of Soil Science R.C. Palmer and R.P Smith, Soil Use and Management doi:10.1111/sum.12068
  33. 33. Soil Landscapes in the South West Alluvial soils & lowland peat Chalk & limestone soils Clay loam soils over slates Podzolic soils over granite Upland peat over granite Sandy soils over sandstone Clay rich soils Urban Soil map derived from information supplied by the National Soil Resource Institute Cranfield University
  34. 34. Rainfall – Mid Devon Rainfall – Cambridgeshire,
  35. 35. • Regulation • Incentives
  36. 36. Conclusion - Soils in the SW are at high risk of compaction - Compaction can be widespread in wet years - Compaction can cause flooding and pollution
  37. 37. Martin Howard Biological Farmer Lower Northcott Farm Boyton
  38. 38. Lower Northcott Farm on the Tamar
  39. 39. Where we have come from • Set Stocked • Making Silage • Supplement with homegrown cereals • A 5 year Rotation, 2 years clover and 3 years cereal Breakcrops
  40. 40. Where are we now? • All Grass Leys, predominantly Multispecies/herbal leys • Long Rotational Interval Grazing (Mob Grazing) • 100% Grass Diet • PFLA Accredited
  41. 41. Cattle on Herbal Leys @ Northcott
  42. 42. Cattle on Herbal Leys @ Lower Northcott
  43. 43. Regrowth of Herbal Leys @ Northcott
  44. 44. Farm walk at Lower Northcott Farm
  45. 45. Why PFLA? • Public perception: “Cattle eat Grass” • Move towards: “Free Range” and “Pasture for Life” (Free Range Milk, Waitrose “100 day”) • Better Health Benefits on Cattle eating Grass. Higher PUFA’s, Vitamin E and CLA’s • Certification, to ensure Customers receive what they ask for.
  46. 46. • Increased cost of Store Cattle • Increased Fixed cost (Labour, Machinary and Fuel) to grow crop • Cultivations reduced Soil Organic Matter, and resilience. Why reducing Cereals
  47. 47. • C14 = Carbon • Soil Carbon = 2 x Air, and 3 x Biomass above ground Carbon • Carbon content of Soil Organic Matter (SOM) = 58% • Or SOM = 1.72 x SOC • Also 1 % Organic matter at 30 cm depth = 160,000 L water • Summer BGS 2015 @ Jono Cole @ 50 cm = 7.7% SOM (4.5% SOC) = 2.0 M Litres of water can be retained/ha = 200 Litres water/m² = over 0.2 meters of Water = 8” • Carbon sequestration! If Jono can increase his SOM by 0.4%/yr. He will capture 24 t CO2/ha = annual emissions of 2 Homes or 5 cars worth Soil Organic Matter
  48. 48. Quantifying the Effect of land use on Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) stocks in the Tamar Valley
  49. 49. • 1 – Relative cost of grazed grass • 2.5 – Relative cost of Silage • 4 – Relative cost of Concentrate Reducing Feed cost
  50. 50. • Use Clovers, Nitrogen Fixers, add CHO to soil and allow Free-living bacteria to fix Nitrogen • Build Organic Matter. By longer grazing interval length with Rotational Grazing i.e. Mob Grazing • Use Biology (Soil and Plant) and Diversity of plant Species to provide Nutrients to Stock Benefits of Herbal Leys
  51. 51. Grazed Herbal Leys • Adds fertility, as in Clover Based • Allow for Long Rotational Intervals, Herbs and Clovers stay digestible for longer. • Contain Herbs with Anthelmintic properties, reduced Worm Burden • Wildlife and Pollinator Friendly.
  52. 52. Earthworms Benefit to Soil Nutrition:
  53. 53. Looking at Herbal Leys 2013
  54. 54. 2017 FWAG Bronze Otter Winner
  55. 55. Soil Farmer of the Year 2018 winner announced The other finalists this year who have all been awarded highly commended due to exemplary soil management are David Lord, an arable farmer from Essex, Martin Howard, a beef farmer from Cornwall, and Simon Drury, an arable farmer from Dorset.
  56. 56. The future: Zero Till vs Plough?!
  57. 57. Stantyway Farm, Clinton Devon Estates Sam Walker
  58. 58. Farm facts • 265 acres mainly arable • Organic • Easternmost breeding site of cirl buntings in UK with higher tier stewardship scheme • Ring fenced • Loamy stony soils over sandstone with excellent potential to grow most crops
  59. 59. Soils of Stantyway Farm
  60. 60. Mineral content
  61. 61. Air and water – soil pores
  62. 62. 4.4 tonnes per square metre
  63. 63. 2.4 tonnes per square metre
  64. 64. 8 tonnes per square metre – if tyre pressures reduced in field
  65. 65. Organic matter • Soil at the farm is commonly known to go very hard. • Organic matter is low • I believe improving the organic matter level is vital to ensure good husbandry of my soils • Once the OM improves, the soil will host more fauna, particularly worms, and pore space, structure etc will improve massively. Fungi and bacteria will increase and further improve the cycle
  66. 66. Options to improve the organic matter levels: • Quite limited: • Organic so no AD waste unless free from GM animal feeds • No green waste compost allowed • Can buy in dung – have bought moderate quantity of organic chicken litter so far but would be very expensive way to increase OM
  67. 67. Best means of building soil OM in this situation
  68. 68. And once I’ve built up the OM...
  69. 69. The advisers role
  70. 70. How should you advise about soil? • Where do you start? – Source-Pathway-receptor • Problems • Barriers • Solutions
  71. 71. Problems
  72. 72. Problems
  73. 73. Problems
  74. 74. Problems
  75. 75. Barriers • Short term priorities • Time • Cost • Mixed messages
  76. 76. 1945
  77. 77. 2002
  78. 78. Solutions
  79. 79. Dr. Chris Watts, Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems, Rothamsted Research.
  80. 80. Highlighting what’s often hidden
  81. 81. Other attempts
  82. 82. Taking responsibility • Unaware of the scale of the problem • Too much soil • Often directly affected by poor soil (without knowing it) – but not always. • Farm the landscape

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