Campaign Gets Back Down to Earth

Soil Scientist at CFE Event

More than 80 farmers from across Essex gathered at Black Notley Hall Farm last week, to hear from a variety of experts about how to identify and remedy soil problems after a difficult year.

The free event, organised by the Campaign for the Farmed Environment in partnership with the Farming Advice Service and Catchment Sensitive Farming, was just one in a series of six well-attended farm walks taking place across the region this summer.

Following the very wet year and late spring, many farmers have witnessed poor germination and slow growth which will ultimately mean lower yields. Soil compaction and associated erosion from trafficking on wet land during the autumn, winter and spring are often compounding these issues. Further, erosion events cause the loss of valuable soil and can impact water quality as pesticides and nutrients are carried into watercourses, attached to soil particles.

Focusing on the remedy from the comfort of his soil pit, soil scientist Phillip Wright explained when and how to subsoil, but cautioned that it can become addictive, and, if done at the wrong time can add to compaction rather than solve it. He said: “There is simply no point in dragging metal through wet or ‘plastic’ soils in a bid to reduce compaction. If you can roll your soil into a thin sausage between your palms, it’s the wrong time to subsoil.”

Farmers were advised to dig diagnostic holes in the headlands as well as in the growing crop to examine closely what is going on in the field, before deciding an appropriate course of remedial action for each of these areas in advance of the next growing season. The soil specialist also advised farmers to check the angle of subsoiling tines (too steep and compaction can be worsened) and suggested varying cultivating depths as a means of avoiding a pan below the surface.

CFE Event Summer 2013 008

Before lunch, farmers had the opportunity to view a number of measures aimed at protecting watercourses which are available through Catchment Sensitive Farming’s Capital Grants Scheme, including a pesticide handling area linked to a biobed.

Teresa Meadows, Chelmer and Blackwater Catchment Advisor, said: “It’s fantastic to see so many people here today and really indicative of how farmers are engaged in doing what they can to improve water quality in the catchment.”

Farmers were also shown options on the ground which are available in both Entry Level Stewardship and the Campaign’s Voluntary Measures.  Rob Cooper, Assistant Co-ordinator of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment in the East, said:

“After a difficult year for farmers weather-wise, and with uncertainty ahead about what CAP reform will mean for individual farms, there has never been a better time to keep in place the stewardship measures you have.

“Slowing the passage of water across land using options like grass margins and beetle banks will not only make the land more resilient to climatic uncertainty, but by keeping these measures in situ our farms will be better placed to accommodate CAP greening requirements.

“That’s why we are urging farmers to renew their stewardship agreements before the end of August if they can, or, if expiring schemes fall within the so called ‘CAP Gap’, to keep what they can in place until the new schemes become available.”

For more information about the Campaign for the Farmed Environment in East Anglia, contact Rob, Elizabeth or Jilly on: 01223 841507 or

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FWAG East is part of the FWAG Association: FWAG East CIC is a limited company registered in England. Registered No: 08776388. Thanks to Chris Loades for images: