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Lewis & Harris Soil & Nutrient Network 2nd Meeting – Event Summary

30 September 2017

Grassland management

Gavin Elrick, soil & drainage expert from SAC Consulting, discussing soil health in a grassland field near Stornaway

The meeting opened with Gavin Elrick, SAC Consulting’s soils & drainage expert giving an engaging presentation about the soil nutrients required for efficient grassland growth.  You can read Gavin’s presentation slides for more information.

An enthusiastic group of 13 met at this second event of the Lewis & Harris SNN during September 2017.

Grassland agronomist, David Lawson (SAC Consulting) then led the group with an interesting presentation about soil management for grassland.  A holistic grassland management plan needs to not only include nutritional management of the soil, but also consideration to soil type, structure & biological health.  If problems with soil structure are identified, correct remediation is key to improving the grass yields.  Without good air and water flow through the soil and around the plant roots, the crop cannot effectively uptake any applied nutrients.  Yields will suffer and there will be environmental losses as well as financial.  Correct soil management can increase farm efficiency and reduce carbon output.  Read David’s presentation slides here.

David Lawson, Grassland agronomist giving a presentation on soil management for grassland at the Lewis & Harris Soil & Nutrient Network Meeting

Afternoon croft visits

Following on from the classroom setting the group visited 3 local crofts – one newly reseeded, one four years on from a reseed and one which had been treated with Biosolid sludge. Rob Black, SAC Consulting, had prepared a brief report on each of the crofts as to how they had been prepared and treated.    At each of these parks Gavin performed a check on the soil profile & David discussed the chosen grass varieties & what could be done to improve/diversify such crops for the future.

The meeting concluded with the participants taking full advantage of David and Gavin’s vast experience to ask questions specific to their own requirements.  Handouts available at this event are available to download through the links below.

Key messages from this meeting: .

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of lime in your soil to achieve optimal target pH
  • Know your soil before undergoing any type of treatment so that accurate and targeted treatments may be applied
  • Consider perspective changes to the current challenges & issues facing grassland & soil management in crofting agriculture e.g. utilising Reed Canary Grass in poorly drained areas instead of expensive drainage works
  • Assess your soil structure & texture to better understand soil type
  • Utilise tools for assessing soil biodiversity and its importance for soil health
  • Current target crofts can highlight what is achievable with proper & continued management of the soil and land – use these as a guide to what you can achieve from your land

This was the second of the group meetings of the Lewis & Harris Soil & Nutrient Network.  You can read more about what was discussed during the first meeting earlier in the year here.

Farming & Water Scotland Logo

There are 12 Soil & Nutrient Network groups across Scotland.  You can find more information about them and read what previous network groups have done at the Farming & Water Scotland webpage.





Related Downloads
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
Technical Note (TN656): Soils Information, Texture and Liming
This technical note offers information on soil, including classification, texture, PLANET Scotland and lime recommendations.
Topics: Soils
Assessing Soil Texture
Topics: Soils
Farming For A Better Climate: Practical Guide – Alleviating Soil Compaction
This Practical Guide gives some ideas on how to alleviate soil compaction.
Topics: Soils
Soil Management Practical Guide
Scottish soils are a valuable store of carbon, particularly the peat soils of the uplands and islands.
Farming For A Better Climate: Practical Guide – Field Drainage
Topics: Soils and Water Management
Farming For A Better Climate: Practical Guide – Improving Soil Quality
This Practical Guide concentrates on how we can improve soil quality to help us to adapt to climate change.
Topics: Soils
Healthy Grassland Soils – guide to soil assessment
This is publication from Newcastle University, ADAS, SRUC & AHDB can be used to help you assess the health of your grassland soils
Topics: Climate Change, Soils, Water Management and Crops and Soils
Scottish Water – Biosolids benefits
Topics: Soils
The Safe Sludge Matrix
Guidelines for the application of sewage sludge to agricultural land
Topics: Soils
A close up photo of a bait lamina stick which is used to monitor soil biological activity as a guide to soil health

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