Grassland Soil Assessment Tool

Project number:                    74329

Lead contractor:                   SAC Commercial Ltd

Start & end date:                   01 January 2014 – 29 June 2014

 

The Problem:

Poor soil structure typically results in deterioration of soil function, including rooting conditions, nutrient supply, organic matter content, aeration, water infiltration and pasture productivity, such as seasonal growth patterns and botanical composition. It has been reported that 12% of the grassland soils were in poor‘ condition and 63% were in moderate‘ structural condition in 300 grassland fields located on 150 farms in England and Wales, based on soil visual assessment.

There are a number of different systems to assess grassland soils, but there is a need to produce an industry recognised one.

 

Aims and Objectives:

  • To help grassland farmers gather sufficient information to make informed soil management decisions to sustain optimum grassland productivity
  • To develop a visually based soil assessment tool to assist grassland farmers in soil condition evaluation that will provide a score to reflect the health‘ of the soil
  • To assist in decision making about further management options to repair damaged soils
  • To provide photographs that reflect soil conditions in a number of soil textures
  • To produce cost benefits in relation to soil structure and details of how to prevent further damage to soils

 

Approach:

  1. An initial meeting with farmers and industry representatives will be needed to gather views on the main areas that require to be addressed, the level of detail required and the specific soil management outcomes that would be most appropriate
  2. Link the soil structural assessment tool with a range of other measures and indicators of soil health
  3. Development of a toolkit which gives increasingly greater information as the user progresses through a three tiered system. All three tiers will be based around a central soil visual assessment tool for field-based grading of soil structural quality within bands in a traffic light system, including a decision tree to guide farmers to the best actions to follow for system optimisation and sustained profitability through yield improvement
  4. Review of the suitability of the developed products from the three tiers with stakeholders – a practical event arranged with key industry experts
  5. Deliver a grassland soil tool

 

Results:

The project developed a simple scoring system, plus additional supportive material.

An A4 sheet was developed – Healthy Grassland Soils – Four quick steps to assess soil structure – and was made available at events and on the EBLEX website.

A pocketbook was developed to provide more detail and an opportunity to record scores.  This was promoted and will be used at events.

A ‘Healthy Grassland Soils’ website was developed to promote the resources.

A press release was produced and the resources were promoted through Grazing Club and the BRP bulletin.