Keywords: thinksoils, soil structure, soil assessment, surface run-off, compaction, infiltration, diffuse pollution.
A manual, ‘thinksoils’, has been published by the UK Environment Agency. The manual aims, through a comprehensive set of colour photographs, to help farmers and land managers identify soil types and farming systems where there is a risk of soil erosion. Poor soil structure can increase the chance of soil erosion under adverse weather conditions and eroded soil can transport nitrate, phosphate and pesticides into surface water. Nutrient enrichment of surface water can lead to adverse effects on the biological balance in such waters and severely limit the value of surface water for many purposes. Once identified, remedial measures can be taken to improve soil structure and minimise the risk of pollution through soil eroding and entering surface waters.
Improving soil structure should minimise the risk of soil loss to water courses and also improve crop yields. The methodology suggested in the ‘thinksoils’ manual takes growers and land managers through a simple process to identify the structure of the soil in their fields at three horizons within the soil profile: the soil surface, topsoil and subsoil. This is done with a series pictures showing how to assess soil structure at each soil horizon and then illustrates good and bad soil structure on each of the main soil types found in the UK.
The final section in the manual suggests options that may be taken to reduce soil erosion and run off from different cropping regimes.
The manual has been published by the Environment Agency. It has been very well received by the British farming industry showing the demand for such a publication. Currently over six thousand hard copies have been produced for purchase — ISBN: 978-1-84432-837-6 – and a copy can be downloaded without charge from:
Simon Draper, Consultant, Rickinghill, Diss, Norfolk IP22 1LZ, UK, and
Mat Davis, Environment Agency, Peterborough, PE2 5ZR, UK.
22 pages, 4 plates, 5 figures, 1 table, 13 references.