Seeking pathways to improved soil health

What are the pathways to improved soil health in agriculture? This was the broad question addressed by CHAP Innovation Leads Harry Langford and Amy Farrington as part of the Agri-FoodTech Club’s ‘Soil Health Leaders Discussion’ in early May.

Hosted by Rob Ward from CHAP member Forward Food Tech, the debate also featured Jim Bailey (PES Technologies), Karen Fisher (Soil Association), Jess Gnad (Great Plains Conservation), Camilla Hayselden-Ashby (Fieldmargin), and Tom Bradshaw (NFU).

In a lively hour-long debate, Rob posed questions around the pathways to, potential of and innovations in soil health improvement, as well as the incentives to solve soil health problems, touching on both carbon sequestration and the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). Some of the routes to improved soil health highlighted by participants were:

  • Education and farmer-led research to drive adoption of appropriate solutions
  • Novel sensing technologies and data processing to unlock actionable insights for the farmer
  • Metabarcoding of soil biodiversity to provide a functional evidence-base for soil inputs
  • Focusing on the long-term viewpoint, be that demonstrating through longer-term trials “within the agronomic system” at exemplar demonstration farms, or by stronger confirmation of the timescales for soil health improvements to de-risk decision-making

On carbon sequestration and ELMS, Tom perhaps summed it up best when he said “we need to determine the technical metrics for specific soil and farm types” to maximise the impact of soil health improvement, with a broad agreement from panelists that knowledge of the baseline and ‘practical maximum’ carbon sequestration potential, along with the flexibility to incentivise and support positive management decisions were key.

For information on the work CHAP is doing to promote and advance soil health technologies visit our Solutions page, Field Scale Precision Equipment or Soil Health Facility

If you are interested in working with CHAP to explore soil health or are interested in working with us on a specific project,, please email us using the enquiries form at the bottom of our homepage.