Sustainable Soil Strategy

The Duchy of Lancaster recently hosted a workshop on soil management for a number of farm tenants.  The event was held at the Allerton Project, a Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust research farm in Loddington. The focus of the workshop was on soil structure, chemistry and biology and it provided an opportunity to share examples of best practice.

 Members of the Duchy Rural team and tenants from Staffordshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire were present and shared their experiences of effective soil management techniques throughout the day. The ‘trial plots’ on site at the research farm clearly demonstrated the impact of different autumn cultivation systems on the growing arable crops, allowing for a side-by-side comparison and assessment of alternative options.

 Commenting on the day Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “For many years the agricultural industry has in part given insufficient attention to the condition, management and performance of our nation’s soils. A trend of unimaginative combinable crop rotations combined with the use of aggressive agri-chemicals and artificial fertilisers to secure short-term results have tainted the soil’s capability to manage volatile weather conditions or combat the ongoing spread of yield robbing weeds such as black-grass.

 “As a responsible landowner the Duchy wants to encourage tenants to reverse this trend by actively managing, protecting and improving the quality of our soil and the way in which we look after it.”

Following feedback from those who attended the workshop the Duchy now intends to roll out similar events for its tenants in Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire. The long-term aim is to help farmers prepare effective soil management strategies ahead of expected agricultural policy reforms in the UK which in turn are likely to target increased environmental protection and hopefully opportunities for soil improvement.