Arable soil management: Cultivation and crop establishment

Guidance to help you adapt arable cultivations on a rotational basis

Cultivation, any mechanical act to prepare the soil to raise crops, is an essential feature of many crop production systems.

In some situations, ploughing is essential; in others, virtually no soil movement delivers the desired result. Most frequently, a careful combination of biology (e.g. roots and worms) and metal is the most efficient way to manage soil structure and remove any barriers to the movement of water, air and roots.

With a spotlight on the sustainability of arable farming, our Arable soil management guide shines a light on the numerous factors that influence the need to cultivate or restructure soils.

Available in print

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Top ten factors to consider when adopting a managed approach to cultivations

  1. Rainfall
  2. Soil
  3. Management
  4. Drainage
  5. Residues/organic matter
  6. Cover/catch crop
  7. Trafficking
  8. Irrigation
  9. Pests
  10. Weeds

Establishment approach assessment tool

Cultivation choice cannot be prescriptive. However, the establishment approach assessment tool indicates where a change in management approach might be beneficial. The tool asks users to allocate a score (1–10 scale) for each of the 10 factors described within the guide. The higher the total score, the greater the opportunity to adopt less intensive cultivation approaches.

Download the tool


Use this tool to estimate compaction risks associated with specific machinery, tyres/tracks, soil characteristics and soil water status.

Use Terranimo® – a compaction-risk model

Terranimo® quick start guide

GREATsoils (AHDB information)

The GREATsoils web page is a gateway to all of our soil-related activity. From research and knowledge exchange to guidance, this page provides practical solutions and an insight into our research investment.

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