Digging deeper into soils at Lothians and Angus monitor farm meetings

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Two upcoming monitor farm meetings will dig deeper into soil health for the arable sector. The subject will be scrutinised at an arable-focused meeting at Lothians monitor farm on 23 May, as well as an Angus monitor farm meeting the following day.

Host for the Lothians, Bill Gray, says: “We’ve got some pretty challenging people coming up to see the community group this time, so there will no doubt some debate around our standard practice and how we tend to do things up here.

“But we’ll also be challenging the speakers. There are certain things that may be simpler to establish down south, in different rotations, climate and environment; that’s not to say they can’t work here, but we’ll be exploring how we can make a success of certain things – like zero till – in Scotland.”

Both meetings will host innovative farmer Clive Bailye from Staffordshire, who will discuss how he made zero till farming work for his system.

Clive, who also founded The Farming Forum and Direct Driller magazine, moved to a zero tillage system nearly a decade ago with the aim of reducing costs while improving yields. He focuses on increasing soil organic matter levels, water infiltration and capturing sunlight through cover cropping, rotational diversity and has recently reintroduced livestock onto the farm.

Also speaking at the meeting will be Christina Clarke from ADAS who will cover plant health and pathogens, wheat varieties and breeding while Andy Newbold from Farm Smart will discuss soil remediation, machinery settings, tine design and impact on soils.

AHDB’s Harry Henderson will share the results of the machinery review carried out across the monitor farm network and apprise the group on AHDB projects on straw and soils.

AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager Chris Leslie explains: “We wanted to bring in some really exciting speakers on soil health and by getting them along to two of our monitor farms we are spreading that knowledge as wide as we can.

“This is the ideal time of year to be considering your soils, whether that is health, pathogens or the machinery you are using to work it, and this meeting will give us a chance to discuss all the tools we have to make the most of this vital resource.”

The Lothians and Angus Monitor farms were established in Scotland as part of a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds with funding from the Scottish Government. The aim of the monitor farm programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses. 

The Lothians meeting will be held at Rosemains Farm on 23 May, tea and coffee will be available from 10am and the event will close at 3pm. The Angus meeting will be held at Mill of Inverarity Farm on 24 May with tea and coffee available from 10.30am, again closing at 3pm.

The Lothians Monitor Farm will also host a livestock-focused meeting on 21 May, more details can be found online at www.monitorfarms.co.uk. More information on soils can be found online on our GREATsoils page.

Those interested in attending the Lothians event should contact Colin MacPhail on 07747 046461 or at colin@macphailconsulting.co.uk. Those interested in attending the Angus event should contact SAC Consulting’s Stonehaven office on 01569 762305 or email zach.reilly@sac.co.uk.