SWFC is working on an exciting soil health project with the South Downs National Park Authority, helping to assess soil health and soil carbon stocks on a number of local farms—as well as ways to make the farms more resilient for the future
Tom and Anthony presenting to the Winchester South Downs Farm Cluster group
The talk was very well received and SWFC team was then invited to visit six monitor farms in the area to assess their soil health and soil carbon stocks. So, in February, Tom and Anthony spent two weeks assessing five fields on each of the monitor farms under a range of different management practices—including woodland, zero till, cover cropping, permanent and temporary pasture—to try to get a baseline of soil health versus land management.
Soil sampling on the South Downs
Tests included worm counts, VESS (Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure), infiltration rate (with limited success given the weather!), slake tests, as well as in-depth lab analysis at two different depths to identify soil organic matter, soil organic carbon, macro and micronutrients and pH. Although these four soil samples (below) are all the same soil ‘type’, they reveal a significant colour change as a result of the increasing organic matter component in the soils due to the influence of land management, with long-term arable, temporary pasture, permanent pasture and woodland, respectively.
These four soil samples are all the same soil ‘type’, but reveal a significant colour change as a result of the increasing soil organic matter due to land management.
Working alongside Becky at Farm Carbon Toolkit, we will also provide the six farms with the carbon stocks on their individual farms and a clearer idea of their overall carbon footprint. At the end of the project, we hope to offer the SDNP farmers an in-depth look into how each farm sits in terms of its carbon footprint and general soil health, as well ideas about how they might improve and adapt their management practices to create a more resilient farming system for the future, as part of a wider strategy of taking the farms down a more regenerative approach.
Here to help
If you are interested in setting up a similar project with a farm group — or simply want to assess the soil health and soil carbon stocks on your farm — drop us an email using our Contacts Page or call 01503 220 002. We look forward to hearing from you!