Tuesday 10 May 2011

Global news from the world of soil

Long term impacts of soil compaction
An article in ScienceDaily earlier this month reported that the damage done to soils by heavy agricultural machinery, causing compaction, was ‘more permanent’ than had previously been believed by researchers.  As well as resulting in reduced yields, soils damaged by compaction would be more vulnerable to erosion and loss of nutrients, leading to water pollution problems.

"It has generally been assumed that structural damage at 25 to 40 centimetres' depth has recovered after ten years. However, our findings show that the pore system and density of the soil are clearly affected even 14 years after the soil was subject to compaction. This may mean that compaction leads to permanent changes," speculates Professor Trond Børresen, one of the researchers working on the Scandinavian study.

Climate change also makes the soil more vulnerable to compaction, according to the professor.

"Driving on wet soil increases the risk of damage to both the topsoil and the subsoil. If the climate changes and we see more precipitation in spring and autumn, we will soon see a lot more damage from soil compaction than we do today," he says.

The agricultural land is also affected by the fact that the weight and size of the machinery have increased significantly during the past ten years.  Read the full story here.

An article in the Express and Echo reports how a Devon farmer has won a progressive farming award for his use of direct drilling as part of a conservation tillage system.

A DEVON farmer who is using state-of-the-art technology to achieve the Holy Grail of modern farming – producing more, with less impact – has won this year's John Neason Award for Progressive Farming, presented by the Devon County Agricultural Association.

James Lee, of Lee Farm Services, based at Shobrooke near Crediton, specialises in using direct drilling to establish arable crops in one pass, so saving fuel and minimising the risk of damage to soil structure.

The technique is particularly useful for establishing winter wheat immediately after maize has been harvested in the autumn, when the risk of soil compaction and of run-off into watercourses is at its greatest, and nowhere more so than on the steeply sloping fields which are characteristic of Mid-Devon, where most of James' customers farm.  Read the full story here.

And from the Coffs Coast Advocate, published in New South Wales, Australia, we learn that this week is a very special week indeed...!

DO YOU know what is special about this week?  Yes it's Mother's Day, but something else has been going on for the past week that you should know about and it's International Compost Awareness Week.

Not exactly the sexiest of subjects and pretty hard to promote but with all the talk of carbon taxes and saving the planet, it's something we all should be involved with.  Composting at both a commercial and domestic level has a multitude of environmental and economic benefits.

Compost returns organic matter to the soil, which improves soil structure, water infiltration, and water holding capacity of the soil.  This has many beneficial implications, including reducing the demand for irrigation water used in intensive agriculture and working towards sustainable yields.  The application of composted mulches can provide a 30% reduction in irrigation water needs.  Read the full story here.