Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Soil Matters

How we manage this stuff........
The Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) was re-launched back in the autumn and now has a co-ordinator in every English county. I continue to head up the campaign in Hampshire, but the difference is that CFE now covers all grassland farms and encompasses much more about soil and water within its remit, while continuing to promote practical farm conservation.

I feel that one of the biggest strengths of the campaign is that it has so successfully brought together advisors, industry and experts from right across the farming and conservation sectors. Let’s face it, there is an enormous amount for a land manager to grasp if he or she is to run a farm efficiently and within the law! Yesterday, I attended just such an event with my CFE hat on which showed just how well different organisations can work together to disseminate practical, local advice.

The event entitled “Soil Matters” was organised by Kathryn Mitchell, the Integrated Farm Management (IFM) Development Manager from Linking Environment And Farming (LEAF) and Serena Leadlay, the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) officer for the Hampshire rivers, the Test and Itchen. (Crumbs, it makes you realise just how many acronyms we use nowadays – I have put links to all if you want to find out more!!)

The morning started with a series of indoor talks about soil and water and how best to manage them from both a cropping and environmental point of view. We then went out onto the Leckford estate, which is owned and run by the John Lewis partnership and is also a LEAF demonstration farm. Here we heard from a Lucy Roberts a groundwater technical specialist from the Environment agency (EA) and also from Kevin Ashford, an agronomist specialising in soils. Add to this heady mix the Leckford estate manager, Andrew Ferguson, who added his local expertise to day and you can see that anyone attending the day had a wealth of knowledge present to tap into.

We still have so much to learn about how we manage our soils and the impact that different management techniques have on our environment, especially the quality of our water. Talking to the farmers who attended, the general consensus is that we have only just started to “scratch the surface”. Sorry for this awful pun – but it is true!!

Impacts on the quality of this stuff!

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