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Cereals Preview: Deeper focus on soil health with conservation theatre

With soil, air and water quality coming under increasing focus, growers attending Cereals can learn about tried and tested techniques to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and promote biodiversity, while optimising yield. 

New to Cereals this year is the Conservation Agriculture Theatre, with the theme Conservation Techniques: Improving productivity and sustainability.

 

The theatre will feature farming and soil management techniques that protect the land from erosion and degradation, improve its quality and biodiversity, and contribute to the preservation of the natural resources, water and air, while optimising yields and total farm output.

 

Speakers will cover topics from a practical point of view in order to help farmers navigate the changing landscape.


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Sustainable

 

Philip Jarvis, head of farming at the Game and Wildlife Trust’s Allerton Project, will discuss the European sustainable farming project, a five-year project looking at three farming systems.

 

The project is assessing agronomic, environmental, productive and financial impacts on a whole cereal based rotation on a heavy land and light land situation in the UK, understanding the practical implications of adopting new practices its complexity and riskiness.

Leys

 

Growers interested in learning how grass leys can improve soil health can hear Jonathan Leake, professor of plant-soil interactions at the University of Sheffield present recent findings on the restorative effects of traditional grass-clover leys and species-rich herbal leys on soil quality and on subsequent crop yields.

 

The study found leys increased wheat yield and reduced fertiliser requirements, substantially improving soil structure, hydrological functioning, soil biology, and chemistry.

 

These effects are driven by recovery of beneficial ecosystem-engineer soil biota such as earthworms and mycorrhizal fungi – providing a positive restorative feedback.

Min-till

 

With many farmers looking at reduced cultivations to improve soil health, growers can listen to Ben Knight, farm manager of Springfield Farms, discuss how strip tillage could be the answer for future proofing arable enterprises.

 

Sharing his challenges and recent developments as a Mzuri trial farm, Mr Knight will explain how strip tillage has improved weed control and reduced dependency on chemistry, while cutting expenditure and improving soil structure thanks to single pass establishment.

 

Other topics will include increasing wild pollinators on farmland and a no-till question time.

 

Worm’s eye

 

For a glance into soil degradation, the soil pit will return to this year’s Cereals, offering visitors a greater understanding of the composition of the soil they grow their crops in, and the effect that cropping and mechanisation have on soil health and structure.

 

The 20-metre long by 1.5-metre deep pit delivers a ‘worm’s eye view’ of roots and soil structure, providing a unique opportunity to explore the foundations of a farming system and discover the impact of different cropping options on soil structure.

 

Research and information on cultivations, tillage and soil management from NIAB specialists, including a range of cultivation machinery and specialist soil investigative equipment will be available at the soil it.

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