CHAP & Cranfield Experts Present at Soils in Practice

CHAP’s resident soil scientist and Innovation Network Lead, Dr Harry Langford, spoke at this year’s Soils in Practice 2019 (South) at Russell Smith Farms, near Duxford in Cambridgeshire, on 14th November.

In cohort with Professor Jane Rickson from Cranfield University, who presented on the effects of different tillage systems and of different soil amendments on soil health, Harry presented on the effects of strip tillage, companion cropping and grass-clover leys on soil health. The session focused on translating soil science into practical application for farmers, and some of the data he presented by was contributed by Stockbridge Technology Centre, from two EU projects (DIVERSify and Living Mulches) that utilised the CHAP ‘Field-scale Precision Equipment’, and by Professor Jonathan Leake from the University of Sheffield, from the SoilBioHedge project.

The farmer-focused event had some excellent demonstration sessions focusing on soil biology, soil health assessment, soil amendments and compaction, as well as some informative presentations around soil health in the context of changing UK agricultural policy, the Soil Health and Soil Biology Partnership, and Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF).

On the subject of CTF, Canadian farmer Steve Larocque delivered an insightful presentation on his experience with no-till agriculture and CTF. It was particularly interesting to hear that, after 4 years of this practice, improved soil structure actually allowed for “even straighter rows to be drilled, which really opens the door for precision agricultural applications”, as well as that “even in the driest of years, moisture can always be found below the previous year’s stubble”.

Other insightful comments were that “farmers don’t have a black grass issue, they have a farming system and soil health issue” (Stephen Briggs, Innovation 4 Agriculture), and that “with a soil health check, the impact is not necessarily as much in the numbers as it is in the conversation with others about the numbers” (Elizabeth Stockdale, NIAB).

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