Phil Jarvis is an NFU Environment Forum member.
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Why are there problems around soil structure, compaction, erosion and organic matter? Compaction issues could be due to farmers using larger machinery as we strive for more efficient farms. We seem to have lost the key elements of good structure as we squeeze vital air from between the soil pores.
Climate change and the extremes of weather patterns could explain why more erosion events occur. However, as we lose organic matter from our soils from over cultivation we also make our ground less resilient to weather extremes of wet and dry.
So what are the solutions? Firstly it depends on what soil you are farming and secondly what climatic conditions are prevalent in your area. At the GWCT’s farm, at Loddington, we are looking to improve structure with reduced cultivation while encouraging more earthworms and other soil fauna and flora.
We need a sustainable soil strategy, but it has to come in conjunction with a proper functioning marketplace for food.
Cover crops can help with both structure and our organic content within the soil. It’s not an easy strategy as grass weeds and slugs line up like a marauding army waiting to strike at any chinks in our armour.
Whichever actions we take to sustain, replenish and rejuvenate our soil, they need to give us long term financial profitability. Growers need a sustainable soil strategy, but it has to come in conjunction with a proper functioning marketplace for food and agricultural commodities. The current world markets make it increasingly difficult to invest in our soils, but invest we must!
We need to be in a place where we worry less about soil health because we have applied solutions to our most important farming ingredient.