Monday, 31 December 2012

Did King Canute ever fill in a Soil Protection Review?

I wonder if King Canute ever thought about filling in a Soil Protection Review (SPR) down on the beach in 1028 AD. His problem, apart from trying to convince his courtiers that he was not as powerful as God/Nature, was the tide eroding his sand and shingle beach. No matter what mitigation he may have wanted to put in place to reduce the erosion, the sea and tide kept coming.

King Canute? No Farmer Phil trying to get the water away!

Skip forward nearly a thousand years and 2012 feels a bit the same. You can fill in the SPR, you can reduce cultivations, use low ground pressure tyres, cultivate across certain slopes and use Environmental Stewardship to buffer watercourses.....  but if it just rains and rains like the last 9 months then flooding, soil slump and erosion become massive issues.

At the Allerton Project we have spent many years looking at soil and water issues, it would be easy to do dismiss the SPR as a useless and bureaucratic process. This year, the process of filling in three separate reviews has concentrated my mind on further improvements that we need to transfer from 'form to field'.
Water flowing through 'paired ponds'
Automatic water samplers working overtime

As I walked around the farm over the last few days looking at the problems in front of me........

Broken Drains
Sediment settles on a buffer strip
My list of actions grew........
  1. Ditches -  Silt and debris cleared from key points around the farm
  2. Drains - No doubt we have done some serious damage with our combine this year, so we have drains to repair. Could be interesting deciding whether its a drain or a spring !!!
  3. Tracks on the combine and review of tyres on all machines especially those of our straw contractors
  4. Reduce our cultivations further.
  5. More straw and organic matter into our soils
  6. More mole ploughing over gravelled drains
We are lucky, we are at the top of the catchment...... if your farm and fields are under water then my thoughts are with you.

And finally.... if you want a simple guide to what's what in Soil Management, this isn't a bad starting place. (Click on picture below)

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