Soil Management

Sustainable soil management is becoming an increasingly important topic for farmers and landowners to consider. It will form part of the up and coming ELM scheme with payments being offered for carbon storage, reducing erosion, preventing flooding and increasing organic matter.

The Soil Carbon pool stores more carbon than both the vegetation and atmospheric pools combined. 58% of the carbon stored in soils is within organic matter. Increasing organic matter in the soil also offers:

• Improved aggregation
• Increased water retention
• Improved water filtration
• Increased nutrient retention
• Improved nutrient release
• Increased workability reducing wear on farm machinery

Increasing the organic matter in your soil by 1% in 40 tonnes of soil (area 10m x 10m) is sufficient to cover the carbon emission for a trip to New York.

It is important to assess the soil that you are managing regularly and keep a record so that you can monitor the changes, good or bad. These simple steps will help you grade your soils and identify areas that need attention:

1. Determine the soil texture, using the soil texture triangle
2. Check that the drainage system is functioning correctly
3. Dig a hole and check for compaction and earthworms
4. Soil test for pH, P, K and organic matter
5. Look at crop rotation

With regards to point five as well as looking at using deep
rooting crops to help reduce compaction, consideration should
also be given to using Mid Tier options to help improve soil organic
matter and reduce compaction. Examples of options that could help with this are:

• AB 13 – brassica fodder crops.
• AB 15 – two sown legume fallow.
• GS4 – Legume and herb-rich swards.
• SW6 – Winter cover crops.

All of these options will help to improve soil organic matter and you will get paid for doing it.

If you would like to discuss soil management further or look at the opportunities for entering a Mid Tier Stewardship scheme, then please contact Phil at pcooper@fcgagric.com or your local FCG Office.

Posted in Arable & Crops, Business Management, Sherborne.