The Importance of Soils and Water

The importance of soils and water will be highlighted to farmers, researchers and policymakers at what promises to be a thought-provoking conference in February.

Organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, the two-day event will provide attendees with practical opportunities to learn about innovative ways to improve soil management as well as become informed about new scientific directions and methods in this specialist area.

Chris Stoate

Chris Stoate

It will be held on 13-14 February at the Trust’s Allerton Project in Loddington, Leicestershire, home to over 15 years of research that informs our understanding of soil and water on farms.

Soil is the essential component for farming and food production, but the way we live our lives and utilise the land has had a serious effect on this fundamental resource. Soil is a non-renewable resource, and is very quickly and easily damaged by poor management, taking many years to recover.

In the UK, 17% of arable soil already show signs of erosion, and 40% is considered at risk and this has an impact not only on our land, but our water too. Soil degradation and water pollution are closely linked and this relationship must be at the forefront of any practical solutions to either issue.

This event is the first time many leading experts in these fields have gathered to discuss not just their findings, but the practical applications what more need to be done to reverse declines in soil and water health.

Attendees will discuss the key questions on the issues, such as how we can farm profitably whilst encouraging healthy soils, clean water and biodiversity on farmland and what role policy and subsidies have in supporting these.

The opening day will focus on delivering research into practice and includes talks on topics including working on a catchment level, flood management and an overview how the Allerton Project has helped to inform our understanding of soil and water. Speakers include Martyn Silgram (Senior Consultant, Soils, Agriculture and Water Quality, RSK ADAS), Jane Rickson (Professor of Soil Science, Lancaster University) and Chris Stoate and Felicity Crotty of the Allerton Project.

There will also be a tour of the Project’s Pioneer Field and a conference dinner with guest speaker Richard Bardgett, Professor of Ecology at The University of Manchester.

Day two, chaired by Mike Hambly, NFU Crops Board Chair, focuses on the practitioners who describe their own set of challenges and what they are doing in a practical way to deal with them. This facilitates the “fusion” between the two groups and hopefully a productive exchange of knowledge; farmers return home with new solutions to try, researchers return home with some more ideas to test.

Organiser Dr Alastair Leake, Director of Policy at the Allerton Project, explains why it’s important to attend.

“The soil and water research projects carried out at the Allerton Project over the past 25 years have produced some insightful results,” he said.

“This Conference will bring these together and focus on how farmers and land managers can use this knowledge to improve their own soils.”

Professor Chris Stoate added: “At this event, some of the most pioneering farmers will be sharing their experience with some of the country’s leading soil scientists who have been collaborating with us on research at the Allerton Project over the past 15 years. It is a great opportunity to combine practical and scientific knowledge to the benefit of us all.”

The conference costs £130 per person, which includes a one-night stay at nearby Barnsdale Lodge Hotel with a conference dinner featuring guest speaker Professor Richard Bardgett. Meals over the two days will be provided.


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