The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) have announced a new research partnership to develop practical soil biology management guidance.
The five-year partnership looks to improve on-farm understanding of soil health by benchmarking current academic and industry knowledge and developing indicators of soil biology and soil health in research trials.
The new £1 million project is part of the AHDB GREATsoils programme, complementing a £1.5 million initiative looking at soil structure, announced by AHDB last year.
Dr Amanda Bennett, AHDB resource management scentist, says: “Interest in soil health has mounted in recent years but soil biology is not particularly well understood, with research to date failing to generate practical materials to support on-farm decisions. Farmers and growers have themselves taken up the mantle and a great deal of work is being done out in the field experimenting with different approaches to optimising soil biology.
“This exciting new partnership will work closely with farmers, growers and advisers to draw together and build on all that knowledge and experience to create accessible guidance and tools to help farmers improve their soils’ health.”
Dr Simon Bowen, BBRO knowledge exchange and crop progression lead, says: “Soil health is both a longer-term and cross-rotational challenge and the collaborative approach across different crop sectors over the five year programme is a unique and vital research platform.
“Crops such as sugar beet create an opportunity as a spring-sown break crop for many growers in the East of England to deploy a range of tools and tactics. These include the application of organic amendments, the growing of over-winter cover crops and the use of different soil cultivation approaches. The challenge to measure the impacts of these different agronomic approaches in order to deliver in the most effective improvement in soil health has never been so important.”