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​Improving Sennowe’s Soils

Posted 24/10/2016 : By: Madeleine Mitchell

Topsoil is the farm’s biggest asset and without it, there would be no farm. Improving soil quality helps to ensure the sustainability of soils for future generations by promoting soil health through increasing organic matter and using minimum till technology.

We are concerned that intensive arable production is leading to a decline in soil organic matter. Organic Matter is vital because it contains, and maintains, the vast population of microscopic organisms in the soil; without it, soils are just ground rock. Microbes within organic matter are the key to fertility by transforming complex organic materials into forms which will later be available to plant roots when active, and when dead, release plant nutrients and improve the texture of the soil to ease root penetration. Under traditional cultivation conditions, decomposition is increased through oxidation and more organic matter is lost than is replaced by natural means. This can be reversed overtime by reducing tillage, thus reducing decomposition and increasing the benefits from external organic inputs such as farm yard manures and green waste composts.

This project will support the acquisition of a no-till drill to be used initially on half the cereal and OSR crops, which is expected to increase over subsequent years. There is a need for our fellow farmers to know about the impact of this technique operating at a commercial scale, so the business plans to work with students from Easton and Otley College to monitor soil organic matter levels, worm counts and other studies to establish trends. In addition, the Estate will keep accurate records of costs of both no-till and conventional systems and hold a field day and an annual seminar event to publicise results with the aim of focusing local farmers' minds and practices on this important issue.