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Caithness Soil & Nutrient Network Final Meeting – Event summary

20 February 2018

This was the final of 3 visits to the Knockglass Soil & Nutrient Network Farm. Gavin Elrick, soil & drainage expert, examining soil structure at Waternish Farm, Skye

With the recent wet weather Gavin Elrick, soils & drainage expert  gave a very apt talk on soil drainage and compaction.

Gavin looked at four areas, soil texture, soil structure, soil compaction and soil drainage- natural and installed.  He reminded those who attended that soil structure is affected by management but highlighted methods of how you could improve it.  He also discussed the benefits of good drainage, how to recognise poor drainage and gave solutions to rectify problems. Read Gavin’s presentation slides.

Later in the afternoon Bill Crooks, soil scientist, explained how the pH of your soil can affect soil nutrient availablity and therefore the crop growth.  Bill gave an interesting presentation on the benefits of grid pH sampling and how this can be more beneficial to the farm business than the standard ‘W’ shaped soil sampling technique.  Information from Bill’s presentation is available here.

Key points from the event:

Good soil structure:

  • Improves aeration and reduces waterloggingSoil scientist, Bill Crooks giving a presentation to the Caithness Soil & nutrient network
  • Reduces compaction
  • Reduces drought risk

Main reasons for compaction:

  • Working/cultivation/grazing in wet conditions
  • Over-cultivation
  • Continuous cultivation
  • Heavy machinery
  • Over-grazing

Drainage is important for:

  • Improved crop and grass yields
  • Improved animal health

Maintain drains on a regular basis,  improve drains by:

  • Identifying problems
  • Prepare a plan
  • Record the work carried out (for the future)

pH of Soil

• Crops differ in their sensitivity to soil acidity

Availability of nutrients is affected by the pH of the soil

  • Low pH
  • Phosphorus (poorer availability below 6 )
  • Calcium (poorer availability below 6)
  • Sulphur (poorer availability below 5.5)
  • Potassium (poorer availability below 5.5)
  • Aluminium problems (below 5.5)

Ph varies for 3 main reasons

  • Old field boundaries
  • Soil texture
  • Previous lime application

Related information is available to download through the links below.

Knockglass farm is one of the 12 host farms for the Soil & Nutrient Network.  You can read more about Knockglass Farm in the Case Study, and learn more about previous host farmers from the Farming & Water Scotland webpage.

Related Downloads
Caithness SNN final meeting presentation slides: Fertiliser usage
Presentation slides on the topic of 'Fertiliser Usage' from the final Caithness SNN meeting
Topics: Soils
Caithness SNN final meeting – presentation slides: Soil pH & lime requirements
'Soil pH & lime requirements' presentation slides from the final Caithness SNN meeting
Topics: Soils
Caithness SNN final meeting presentation slides: Soil Structure, nutrients & drainage for grass
This is a copy of the 'Soil structure, nutrients & drainage for grass production' presentation as part of the final meeting of the Caithness SNN
Topics: Soils
Soil & Nutrient Network – Case Study: Knockglass Farm, Caithness
Soil & Nutrient Network - helping farmers improve soils structure and nutrient management. This case study provides details of the Caithness Soil & Nutrient Network Farm - Knockglass Farm.
Topics: Soils
Valuing Your Soils – Practical Guidance for Scottish Farmers
This brochure includes useful information about Scotland's agricultural soils and practical advice outlining the upfront financial savings and business benefits of better soil management and the efficient use of resources. Action and problem-specific 'field-sheets' are designed for busy farmers with limited time for reading.
Topics: Climate Change, Soils, Water Management and Crops and Soils
Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS) Score Chart
This is a downloadable copy of the Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS) score chart for use in-field.
Topics: Soils
Farming For A Better Climate: Practical Guide – Field Drainage
Topics: Soils and Water Management
Technical Note (TN656): Soil Information, Texture & Liming Recommendations
• Web based access to information on your soils on your farm is described. • Soil texture classes of mineral soils are described and identified by hand texturing. • Liming recommendations for different soils and managements are tabulated.
Topics: Soils
Soil Scientist Bill Crooks giving a presentation to the Caithness Soil & Nutrient Network group

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