Soil & Water Management Centre

Developing & improving your soils

State of soils in England and Scotland -research funded by AHDB being delivered by ADAS

13 Feb 2017 08:54 | Tim Chamen (Administrator)

Soils are in the limelight at the moment, so what better time to have a glimpse of how they are faring on a national scale. This is the aim of a project funded by AHDB assessing sustainable intensification in horticulture cropping systems.

75 fields across England and Scotland have been surveyed, of which 76% were in horticultural production and 16% in cereal and general cropping. Predominant soil types were sandy and light silty and “medium” soils and crops included brassicas, carrots, onions, leeks, vining peas, leafy salads, asparagus and some orchard crops.

Soil measurements were taken pre- and post-planting in both the topsoil and subsoil and included penetration resistance, bulk density and two types of visual soil assessments (VSA - see Väderstad’s topsoil guide).  Topsoil pre-planting VSA scores suggested that 45% of soils were in a “good” compared with 55% in a “moderate” condition, the latter meaning some improvement was needed. Post planting, these scores had changed surprising little, from 45% to 58% and 55% to 42% respectively. Well and moderately developed tillage pans had been reduced by only 8% from 71% to 63%, meaning that most tillage had not dealt with these adequately. On the other hand, many soils had been deep tilled when there was no evidence of a tillage pan.

Of the 45 fields sampled for subsoil conditions, 26% were classed as “firm” pre-planting and 19% post-planting. Bulk density in the subsoil had actually increased post- compared with pre-planting, again suggesting that we are not doing too well on the subsoil issue either!

This project also has a controlled traffic and precision farming element and we will be posting information on those in the near future.


Site Admin: Tim Chamen
t: 01525 405121/Mob 07714 206048

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