Soil is the fundamental resource on which agriculture is based: over 94% of all food is grown in soil. However, soil degradation in the form of erosion, compaction, loss of biodiversity and soil carbon pose an immediate and very real threat to this finite resource.
Healthy soils deliver other ecosystem goods and services (or ‘public goods’) too, including flood control, carbon sequestration and storage, biodiversity, amenity and climate change mitigation. Soil health is determined by soil physical, biological and chemical properties and their dynamic short and long-term interactions.
Healthy soils underpin most agricultural businesses, as they provide crops with vital nutrients and water. Inappropriate soil management can affect the viability and distribution of soil-borne pests, weeds and diseases. The way the soil is managed can influence these relationships, but there are significant gaps in our knowledge of how different field operations and practices affect crop health, and cost-effective and practical solutions still need to be developed in order to manipulate the physical, chemical and biological properties of varied soils to optimise crop production, with damaging the environment. Soil health also underpins soil resilience and the ability of soils and farming systems to cope with extreme weather events the frequency and magnitude of which are increases due to climate change.
Cranfield have the largest collection of soil and water scientists in the UK, who can help you with sustainable soil and water management in order for you to address the Farming for Water, ELMS and Net Zero agendas. Cranfield also host the Crop Health and Protection Centre (CHAP) Soil Health experimental facilities at Cranfield University provide integrated, pilot scale demonstration of the dynamic interactions between soil conditions, crops, water and biotic stresses, all within a cross rotational context. This facility recreates the dynamic interrelationships between soil, water and crops, and the environmental variables that influence them at pilot scale (<1m2– 20m2). Controllable factors include manipulation of the whole crop production cycle (tillage, drilling, plant establishment, crop development, harvest and post-harvest), including the rotational context (multiple cropping seasons). The research facilities include a soil lane with soil processor, rainfall simulation, soil runoff/leachate slopes, crop growth cabinets and a state-of-the-art glasshouse.