Whether you farm on chalk, loam or clay, you’ll know just how much your business depends on your soil, a complex interconnected web of life, from earthworms to bacteria, all working together to provide the nutrients your crops and livestock need
Little of how this ecosystem works is fully understood. At the Soil Association, we certainly don’t have all the answers, but we’ve had soil at the heart of the organisation for over seventy years. We’ve pulled together some resources including stories from farmers who are reaping the benefits of investing in their soils. We hope you find them useful!
As long as you’re interested in boosting your soil health and productivity, these pages are for you, whatever your system.
With growing recognition, the vital of importance of soil is moving up the agenda. We know that every farm has different soil types, but a shared understanding in how to manage your soil is key to maintaining its health and productivity.
Soil testing can be daunting but it’s really all about getting the basics right. If you haven’t tested your soil for a while, have a look at the different soil analysis techniques, then get out and dig some holes.
Every farm offers different opportunities to improve soil quality. Small tweaks can have big impacts, with almost every business decision having an impact on your soil.
There are multiple benefits to extending your rotation, from weed control to balancing nutritional supply and disrupting disease through enhancing diversity. Understanding each component of the rotation is important if you want to increase your levels of soil organic matter whilst also making the sums stack up.
Most soil work is carried out to produce a seedbed and establish a crop. Timing and choosing machinery carefully can minimise the disturbance to soil life.
Getting your system and rotation right will prevent a lot of soil issues arising but you can get more from your land if you anticipate problems like erosion and poaching, and implement changes to prevent damage.
One quarter of all species on Earth live in soils, providing the basis for all food production for the other three-quarters. Like all habitats, soils must provide the full range of conditions necessary for these species to survive and thrive.
Cover crops and green manures can provide a host of benefits to your farm, from nutrient stores and a diverse habitat, to weed control and protection against run-off.
Organic amendments make a great companion to your growth of soil organic matter. To increase fertility there are many amendments you could consider: farmyard manure, compost and woodchip - to name but a few.
Getting your system, your rotation and cultivation right is the best way to improve the quality of your soils – but sometimes you might also want to give them a further nudge in the right direction.