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Stackyard News Nov 05

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Better Soil = Better Profitability

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LOOK after your soil and it will look after you was the message from a workshop run by the Applied Research Forum (ARF).

The event - to translate soil management research into best practice - was held at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire and called Manage your soils: Grow your business.

It explored the impact of global markets, climate change and current farming practices on the functionality and biodiversity of soils in arable, livestock and horticultural farming systems. It then debated the most practical and sustainable long-term strategies for soil management in the UK.

One of the most important points to come out of the event, attended by more than 100 soil scientists, farmers, consultants, agronomists and government and levy board representatives, was the need for a whole-farm approach.

Summing up, Professor Keith Goulding head of the Agriculture and Environment division of Rothamsted Research said "Soil is a complex living biological entity and focusing too closely on just one aspect of soil would put others out of balance leading to a fall in farm profit.

"The welter of legislation, including NVZs and IPPC, which impact directly on soil management, must be incorporated into a whole-farm approach to maintain and improve soil quality for the long-term profitability and productivity of the farm.

"The main threats to soil from climate change and human activity are erosion, loss of soil organic matter, contamination, compaction and sealing.

"Good soil management is essential for healthy, productive and functional soil. Farmers are generally very aware of this and of the importance of soil organic matter but want clear practical information and guidance on best practice and how to track the health of their soils."

HGCA Research Director and Lead Technical Director for ARF, Professor Graham Jellis, said: "It was immensely productive having farmers, scientists and agronomists in the same room, discussing practical aspects of soil management.

"The output of the workshop will now help us to develop the best management strategies for the future. The levy bodies will then take this and communicate it to our respective sectors."

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