As drought has affected wide areas of the south and east of England in recent months, the importance of having soil in good condition has become ever more important.
Two BASIS environmental courses provide much needed insights into the details and practices associated with maintaining and improving soils.
Sound, practical advice for agronomists, farmers and farm managers can be obtained by studying for the BASIS soil and water management certificate.
The extensive syllabus tackles topics including soil erosion, soil health, climate change, soil structure and sustainable crop nutrition.
It also deals with the practical aspects of effective soil management, such as producing a drainage plan, devising cultivation systems, assessing soils and irrigation.
All the relevant UK legislative issues are covered as well.
The issues addressed are increasingly important for financial and environmental reasons.
Soaring fuel prices and machinery costs mean more efficient ways of cultivation are required and it is becoming more widely recognised that a well-structured soil is important for reduced emissions, good drainage and healthy crop growth.
A second BASIS course – quality of soils – aims to provide a deeper insight into how to make farming and production systems more resilient by offering an in-depth understanding of how soil functions as an ecosystem.
The course provides an insight into the relationships between the physical properties, biology and chemical process in soils and how farming practices can affect soil quality – both positively and negatively.
Teresa Meadows, BASIS head of environment, says: “Land managers who focus more on soil structure, monitoring, maintaining and enhancing organic matter, integrating cover crops and green manures, using compost and farmyard manure and altering grazing strategies, for example, are recognising that the benefits can be seen fairly rapidly.”
Examination Studying for either course typically takes five to six days of training, either as a block or spread over several weeks, followed by an examination lasting two and a half hours.
A BASIS podcast focused on the importance of soil, water and cultivations is now available.
It features David Purdy, a territory business manager with John Deere, independent soil consultant Philip Wright and Glenn Bootman, a territory manager for HEVA.
The discussion highlights the changeable nature of soils across a season as well as how to examine soil through physical examination and using other information, such as yield maps, to understand where potential problems may occur across a field.
Four key reasons for cultivation are identified.
First, to manage previous crop residues, especially in combinable crops; to allow air into soil to provide porosity; to repair any damage that careful examination has identified; and to ensure good soil to seed contact for good crop establishment.
There is consensus on the need to ‘tread lightly’ when it comes to cultivations focusing on minimising axle weight and often minimising depth and intensity of cultivations to protect fragile structure