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Wilts Soil and Root Innovators

We plan to investigate practical and cost effective methods to measure soil biological activity. We will be looking at the optimum balance of green manures, composts and tillage to encourage a healthy soil food web, within the context of the wide range of soil types found in N Wilts and S Glos. Methods to include root studies, novel assays, and experiences gained in the identification of within-field soil variation.

This group is based within a 15 mile radius of Swindon.

Group Topic

Improving our soils

Soils are degrading and affecting the long-term ability for farmers to keep up food production. Reducing compaction and erosion and increasing soil organic matter are the key focus areas of this topic.

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  • Past Meetups

    Results meeting -

    The group met to discuss the results of this year's trials and their thoughts on continuing.

    In brief, there were no significant differences found for yield, biomass or flag leaf P concentrations. However there was a trend towards increased amounts of these parameters where P had been co-composted with farm yard manure. There was significant increases in P for rye grass where co-composted however.

    Soil analysis for phosphate, post-harvest, was carried out on 4 fields, results need further analysis once all yield data gathered. One anomaly identified as possibly due to variation in GAFSA application timing.

    After brief discussion, it was agreed that there was sufficient response to warrant continuation of the trial for 2018 and 2019 harvest. Any additional land which could be added to the trial in spring 2018, and 2019, would be valuable, to increase replicates. The greater responses had all come from co-composting for 4 months minimum.

    The coordinator understands that if additional trial areas or analysis are desirable, that resources can probably be made available to cover additional costs.

    There was a general discussion on other aspects of crop phosphate nutrition, especially on soil type, “placement” of FYM in seedbed, composting AD solid, green waste compost, biosolids production methods and “crystal green” as a product. It was noted that fungal activity in compost heaps is more effective at making P available, however bacterial activity tends to circulate larger amounts of inorganic P but it remains less available to plants.

    Tillage discussion
    There was a brief discussion of the idea of a “tillage trial”. The majority present do not believe that minimal tillage in an organic scenario is feasible on a regular basis, mainly due to the problem of grass weeds in a mixed rotation, and also due to need to remove wheelings from straw collection and FYM application operations . Strategies for identifying and minimising compaction would be useful.

    Woodhill Park Farm



    Update meeting and guest talk -

    Dr Jackie Stroud will be with us to talk earthworms , biology and survey techniques, which I am sure we will all find relevant and interesting.
    We will visit one of the phosphate trial sites on the farm.

    In addition, we will be discussing soil physics , esp. cultivation and managing compaction;
    - how do you make decisions on cultivation timing and depth ?
    -are there common mistakes that we all tend to make in seedbed preparation and trafficking ?


    Roundhill Farm

    Lechlade road



    Progress meeting -

    I am suggesting the 11th January for our next meeting. We will avoid clashes with Oxford conferences and the ORC conference. I am conscious that with livestock housed it is sometimes difficult to leave the farm at 9am . Shall we try a 10am start and move to a pub at 12.30 and finish discussions over lunch?

    Venue to be confirmed.

    Adrian (coordinator)

    [Venue TBC]



    Trial development -

    The group will meet to discuss the results and plan the management stage of the field lab.

    *Time to be confirmed*

    This meeting is closed to new members. Please contact the coordinator for more information.

    Bradwell Grove Estate




    Second meeting -

    This meeting is to further discuss the method for surveying trial plots, assess costs and identify the soil assessments that will create the baseline data.

    The group will be joined by John Hammond (Reading University) who will be the research lead for the field lab.

    Eastbrook Farm

    Cues Lane



    Field lab progress meeting -

    Agenda as announced previously - John Hammond will be with us, we have a few suggestions as to simple tests that we can all do to measure our progress towards better soils.

    Do come with ideas of topics that you would like to discuss over winter.

    Adam will be talking about his experiences with ploughing , no till and cover crops (which we will visit).

    Please do indicate if you are likely to attend.

    Adrian (coordinator)

    Colleymore Farm




    Baseline Soil Test Results Meeting -

    NOTE: This meeting is closed to new members. Contact the coordinator for further information.


    This meeting will discuss the results and review the trial methods and ideas around management. It will start at Larcham Field then move to Southfield Farm, Crab Mill Lane, Lea, Malmesbury SN16 9NF, with kind permission of Trevor Baker.

    The group will also be joined by Andrew Woof at the end talking about his work in cover crops.

    9.30 Meet at Larcham Field
    9.40 Inspect two soil types and review survey method (AH)
    10.00 Presentation of results (JH, researcher)
    -Useful tests?
    -Effect of soil type?
    -Impact of management?
    10.40 First thoughts- Soil Management in Larcham (TB and AH)

    [Depart to Southfield Farm, SN16 9NF]

    11.00 Farmhouse Session
    11.10 Lessons for Grassland Soil Management (All)
    11.30 Lessons for Arable soil management
    -On our own soils (All)
    -Cover crops & Conservation Tillage (AW)
    11:50 Discuss plans for July meeting - turning our ideas into trials for 2017 onwards (part three)
    12:00 Depart


    Larcham Field (opp. George Equine Clinic)




    First meeting -

    This is the first meeting of the group to discuss the research priorities, the first topic the group will tackle, who will be interested in getting directly involved in the trials, and what is needed for the research involvement.

    Eastbrook Farm

    Cues Lane



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