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Roxburghshire Soil & Nutrient Network Final Meeting – Event summary

21 February 2018

The third and final meeting of the Roxburghshire Soil and Nutrient Network Farm took place recently at Stichill Village Hall.

The meeting began with some discussion on assessing farmgate nutrient balance.  Working out the nutrient balance allows you to see if current practice is resulting in a surplus or deficit of major nutrients on the farm. Photo of Girrick Farm, one of the Soil & Nutrient Network farms, taken from afar

Using host farm Girrick as an example, agricultural consultant Andy Baird showed attendees how to calculate the farmgate nutrient balance using PLANET Scotland software.  PLANET is free to use and can be downloaded from the PLANET website.  Andy’s presentation can be found here.

By deducting nutrient exports from imports over a 12 month period, we could establish that Girrick had a surplus of N, P & K at farm level. Whilst this exercise provides a useful overview, nutrient balance should ideally be assessed at field level to account for soil analysis results and how nutrients movearound the farm (e.g. within FYM).

Audrey Litterick then led a session on soil organic matter.  Audrey emphasised how vital organic matter is to soil health and explained the challenges of measuring and managing levels in the soil.  Audrey’s presentation can be found here.

Later in the afternoon, Andy Baird talked about the importance of regular fertiliser spreader calibration.  The fertiliser spreader at Girrick was tested and calibrated ahead of the coming season and attendees were shown what key checks were carried out.  Read Andy’s presentation slides.

Over the winter, a field at Girrick was soil sampled using two different methods of GPS (1/4 ha grids and 1 ha grids).  Senior consultant Donald Dunbar explained the pros and cons of different sampling methods and highlighted the cost/benefit of each when factoring in sampling cost and savings in lime required.  Donald’s presentation can be found here.

The meeting was wrapped up with a summary of everything that had been carried out and covered through this project.  Host farmer Andrew Forster told the group that it had been a valuable experience for him, offering him some reassurance that he was doing things right!Host farmer Andrew Forster from the Girrick Farm Soil & Nutrient Network Farm

Key take home messages from this meeting included:

  • Working out your farmgate nutrient balance offers a fairly quick way to see if your farm has a surplus or deficit of key nutrients. All of the data required for this exercise is also needed for a carbon audit. Carbon audits are fully funded through FAS so looking at your farmgate nutrient balance at the same time could add value to your carbon audit.
  • Regular organic matter returns and conservation of exisiting soil organic matter are vital in order to maintain and enhance soil health. Growing green manures or cover crops, applying FYM, incorporating crop residues (e.g. straw) and minimising intensive cultivations are the main ways to maintain or improve soil organic matter levels.
  • Only around a third of farms in the UK have their fertiliser checked every year. The cost of a professional test can be recouped over a relatively small area in many cases.
  • Whilst the cost of GPS soil sampling is higher than that of traditional methods, a net saving can often be made when less lime is required to raise pH as this will be more targeted.

Downloads below include the information available to take away from the event and some related documents.

Girrick Farm was one of 12 host farms for the Soil & Nutrient Network during 2017-18.  You can read meeting notes from the first and second meetings.  Read more about previous host farmers at the Farming & Water Scotland webpage.

Related Downloads
Roxburghshire Soil & Nutrient Network: Girrick Farm Nutrient Budget presentation slides
Presentation slides from the final Roxburghshire Soil & Nutrient Network Farm meeting. These slides show the nutrient budget process for Girrick Farm.
Topics: Soils
Bulky organic manures on farm – Audrey Litterick, Earthcare Technical March 2017 at the Roxburghshire SNN
Roxburghshire Soil & Nutrient Network: Fertiliser Spreader Calibration presentation slides
These are the presentation slides used by Andy Baird during his discussion about calibration of a fertiliser sower during the final Roxburghshire Soil & Nutrient Network meeting.
Topics: Soils
Roxburghshire Soil & Nutrient Network: GPS Soil Sampling & Liming presentation slides
During the final Roxburghshire Soil & Nutrient Network meeting, Donald Dunbar gave a presentation about GPS soil sampling and liming requirements. These are his presentation slides.
Topics: Soils
Soil & Nutrient Network – Case Study: Girrick Farm, Roxburghshire
Soil & Nutrient Network - helping farmers improve soils structure and nutrient management. This case study provides details of the Roxburghshire Soil & Nutrient Network Farm - Girrick 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: Soils, Climate Change, 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
Metric / Imperial conversion tables
This sheet contains multiple metric to imperial conversion ratios that might be of use to you and your farm business.
Topics: Crofts & Small Farms, Soils, Climate Change, Water Management, New Entrants, Livestock, Crops and Soils and Rural Business
Farming For A Better Climate: Practical Guide – Soil Management
Topics: Soils
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
Farming For A Better Climate: Practical Guide – Alleviating Soil Compaction
This Practical Guide gives some ideas on how to alleviate soil compaction.
Topics: Soils
GAEC 4 – Minimum soil cover
The aim of GAEC 4 rules is to protect soil against erosion after harvest until the end of winter (winter is up to and including the last day of February).
Topics: Rural Business
GAEC 6 – Maintenance of soil organic matter
The aim of GAEC 6 rules is to maintain soil organic matter levels.
Topics: Rural Business
Interpretation of Soil Analysis Results
Practical Guide: Managing Soil Phosphorus
This Practical Guide will help you manage the phosphorus in your soils. It will help you understand the risk of phosphorus pollution and how you can reduce bagged fertiliser costs in grassland by incorporating nitrogen fixing clover into your sward.
Topics: Soils, Climate Change 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
Host farmer Andrew Forster from the Girrick Farm Soil & Nutrient Network Farm

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