East Lothian Soil & Nutrient Network: 1st meeting – event summary

24 October 2018

This was the first of three meetings of the East Lothian Soil & Nutrient Network.  It was held at the host farm, Bielgrange, with the kind permission of the Jeffery family.

Donald Dunbar, SAC Consulting, opened the meeting with an introduction into Bielgrange and the Soil & Nutrient Network programme.  Bielgrange is one of 12 host farms from across Scotland, all taking a before and after Photo showing the large group of farmers who attended the first East Lothian Soil & Nutrient Network event at Bielgrangelook at how improvements to farm productivity and profitability can be made through better soil and nutrient management.  Donald’s presentation slides are available to read from this link.

The group then heard from Professor Brian Griffiths about soil health and the key parameters to use to measure it.  He highlighted the importance of interactions between chemical, physical and biological factors that can impact soil health and biodiversity.  Following on from this, there was a short interactive session at an open soil pit to allow attendees to carry out a Visual Examination of Soil Structure (VESS) and worm counts, all with the help of a local agricultural consultants.

Following lunch, Jonathan Black, SAC Consulting, led a presentation on the results and benefits from GPS sampling for lime, highlighting the results from Bielgrange.  You can read Jonathan’s presentation slides from this link.

Key Points

• The dry summer has benefited the structure of the clay loam soil at Bielgrange resulting in good autumn seedbeds. For others the dry conditions have allowed; more use of minimum tillage and remedial action to be to address structure issues
• A healthy soil is good chemical status, good soil biology (5 t/ha of soil life) and good physical structure
• Worms live for up to three years. Good numbers are >9 in a 20 x  20 mm block of soil
• Soil testing for sulphur identifies risk of crop deficiency but plant tissue analysis of nitrogen:sulphur ratio give the definitive answer of deficiency.An open soil pit at Bielgrange, the host farm for the East Lothian Soil & Nutrient Network.  Brian Griffiths is showing a group of farmers the different soil structure within the ground
• Use crop yield and soil status information to calculate nutrient replace requirements. Higher crop yield = greater nutrients removed
• Correct pH is key to maintaining field performance. Using GPS at 4 samples per ha greatly improves the detection of areas of low pH and allows targeted lime applications to remove field variation
• Yield loss below pH 5.5 can be as much as 30% in wheat and 50% in barley
• Correcting each ha of soil below pH 5.5 will result in a wheat yield response up to 3 t/ha (based on 10 t/ha crop).Other than nitrogen, what other input can do that?

You can download information available at the meeting and other relevant material using the links below.

 

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An open soil pit at Bielgrange, the host farm for the East Lothian Soil & Nutrient Network. Brian Griffiths is showing a group of farmers the different soil structure within the ground

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