Soil health is behind everything we do

“I want to see if this trial can lead to a more sustainable growing system that will put something back into the soil whilst at the same time producing a good quality product.” 

Joe Rolfe of Taylorgrown Ltd, who is taking part in the AHDB funded GREATsoils project, talks about their trial which combines soil health building with the release of beneficial insects.

As an Organic grower I’m keenly interested in everything to do with soil. It is after all the premise behind everything we do and if it isn’t healthy we will inevitably suffer the consequence. I have come to understand that like our bodies, when soil is healthy it can prosper. I strive to have high yielding, fresh, good quality products and a healthy soil is the absolute footing to achieve this.

Our seven year rotation already includes a lot of natural soil fertility building, but we are always looking for ways to do more. For the GREATsoils field trial we’re planting up two beetle banks of mixed green manures and insect attracting plants. We have used an aphid mixture in conjunction with Cotswold grass seeds with four types of clover, lucerne, vetches and a fodder radish – the clovers and radish are beneficial for soil.

There are several soil samples and tests taking place before, during and after the crop has been grown and harvested to analyse what nutrient benefits, if any, there are and what other effects this might have had on the soil. At Taylorgrown we already soil test all of our growing areas at the beginning of every season for Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, and also for trace elements. We also take leaf samples on the crops.

We are aligning the soil trial with the release of beneficial insects to try and increase our natural control of pests such as aphids and carrot fly. This is made possible by utilising the flowering plants within the trial as host plants for the beneficial insects.

We have lots of HLS (Higher Level Stewardship) margins, but it takes time for beneficial insects to penetrate the field including lacewings larvae, parasitic wasps and ladybirds. We are trying to get the beneficial insects into the field and active earlier in the season.

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