Valuing Your Soils: New Guidance for Scottish Farmers, Crofters & Land Managers

Published Thursday, 26th May 2016 in SAC Consulting news

Soil testing

It can take 500 years to replace 25 mm (1 inch) of top soil, yet in the UK it is estimated that 2.9 million tonnes of soil are eroded each year, and soil quality is diminished by poor practices.

“Valuing Your Soils”, is newly published guidance, which will help Scottish farmers, crofters and land managers protect and manage their most valuable resource.

This is important because farmers are under increasing pressure from climatic events, like last winter’s heavy rains, which had dramatic effects on farm businesses across Scotland. Poor drainage and waterlogged fields can encourage soil compaction problems contributing to poor nutrient uptake by crops and reduced yields. Less obvious are issues associated with poorly drained grasslands which, for example, can encourage parasites leading to poor livestock nutrition and health.

Mark Aitken, Principal Policy Officer for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), who requested the production of this much needed practical advice, said:     

“Protecting Scotland’s soils and environment is now more important than ever in the face of current economic, climatic and environmental challenges. The “Valuing Your Soils” brochure encourages good management practices that will improve soil quality, help maintain healthy soils and in turn improve farm profits and protect the environment. The publication is also immensely useful because it highlights the importance of good soil structure in protecting and improving water quality, and also helping to reduce flood risks.”

The new guidance (funded by CREW (Centre of Expertise for Waters) at the request of SEPA) was produced with input from Scottish farmers, researchers and consultants from Scotland’s Rural College and industry experts guided by a steering group including CREW, SEPA, industry levy body AHDB, NFUS, Scottish Water, SNH, QMS, Forestry Commission Scotland and the Scottish Government.

Brochures will be distributed at the Royal Highland Show and other agricultural shows across the country. Electronic versions can be downloaded at http://www.sruc.ac.uk/info/120603/farming_and_water_scotland.

There is useful information about Scotland’s agricultural soils and practical advice outlining the upfront financial savings and business benefits of better soil management and the efficient use of resources. Action and problem-specific ‘field-sheets’ are designed for busy farmers with limited time for reading. The appendix contains more detailed technical information and research case studies highlighting evidence from current investigations of Scottish farm soils.

Web links within the brochure will help increase awareness of good management practices, funding opportunities and the current regulations concerning soils in Scotland (e.g. Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions and the Diffuse Pollution General Binding Rules).

NOTE: This document is a replacement for the 2005 Farm Soils Plan, produced by SAC and was based on Getting the Most from Your Soil”,  a  booklet produced in 2012 for Welsh livestock farmers by Meat Promotion Wales and the former Environment Agency Wales.

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