The health of the soil that we farm is integral to its success both now and in years to come. The way in which we farm has a massive influence on the soil, from biota to structure to the nutritional support it offers to crops. Some of the most significant differences between organic and non-organic farming approaches are seen in its effect on the soil, but even amongst organic farmers there are enormous differences and much still to be understood.
Organic crop yields in the UK are static, or even declining and are significantly lower than elsewhere in Europe. This session will discuss the latest ideas on soil analysis, use of manures, fertility building crops and mineral fertilisers. It considered the use of nutrient budgeting, including the use of self-use tools, to help plan and refine crop rotations for improved productivity
This UK Organic Congress Conference session focused on enhancing crop rotations, understanding and making better use of soil analysis, and utilising modelling to explore nutrient use and help planning. The importance of monitoring and managing soil pH and structure was highlighted to help look after the crop’s roots and a diversity of crops within the rotation can help enhance soil microbial communities and help solubilise nutrients for crop uptake. Soil Biology shouldn’t be neglected in nutrient considerations, with small manure additions, large green manure additions and wherever possible, covered soil to feed the soil biota and improve nutrient cycling and availability. The merits and deficiencies of the Albrecht approach were discussed with nutrient ratios potentially unhelpful and large amounts of inputs seen as counter to organic principles, but a more comprehensive analysis of nutrients along with plant tissue analysis could prove very helpful. Long term, regular soil monitoring should be undertaken to help establish on farm trends and changes in management can be tested through modelling tools to guide planning and evaluate rotations from a nutrient perspective.
The discussion that followed the presentations brought out the following points: