Soil Saviours

The Oxford Farming Conference 2017

Resource explained

Soil is a farmer’s biggest asset. This video, produced for the 2017 Oxford Farming Conference, places the importance of protecting our soils in context, outlining some harsh realities and including interviews with farmers who explain what they are doing on their farms to preserve this vital resource. David Walston (Thriplow Farms) and Jake Freestone (Overbury Farms) explain why taking good care of soil is extremely important for their farms in both economic and environmental terms, and give tips on how to improve soils. Both have seen great benefits from reducing tillage. Their decisions not to over-cultivate their soils prevents soil organic matter from diminishing, improving drainage and sustaining plants.

Findings & recommendations

  • David and Jake have adopted soil-preserving measures that have helped them increase crop yields and biodiversity, and reduce costs in the long-term.
  • David outlines three ways you can improve soils:
    • Reduce tillage as much as possible, bearing in mind it might take a few years to reap the benefits.
    • Ensure cover crops are key part of the system; the less the tillage, the more the beneficial effects cover crops might have.
    • Get livestock back in the system. Although this is a challenge for arable farmers, that is where the biggest soil improvements come from.
  • Jake explains they have been growing cover crops across the whole farm when they are going into spring cropping and where they have a break in crops of more than 5 weeks.
  • He is closely monitoring his soils over time by collecting data on soil run-off, soil moisture, organic matter levels, and phosphate and potash levels. This data has helped him make the right decisions, and provide positive evidence towards a less intensive approach to farming. He explains that rather than concentrating on N, P and K values, they are looking, crucially, at the availability of the nutrients to the plants.

Access the video here or by the ‘View the resource’ button.

Interested in finding out more about Thriplow Farms? Have a look at their website.

Find out more about Overbury Farms here. Jake Freestone also features in ‘Cover crops in a no-tillage system‘ and ‘Simply Sustainable Water at Overbury Farms‘.

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