30 Healthy Soil Workshops – coming soon!

Innovation for Agriculture, in partnership with Catchment Sensitive Farming, are running Healthy Soils workshops over the country this winter.

Commencing on the 17th December 2018 in Norfolk there will be 30 interactive workshops delivered to farmers and advisors before spring.

These events are free to attend and are focusing on soil health and building soil organic matter for soil health and fertility.

All events will be listed on the IfA website shortly.

New Videos Launched To Help Farmers Improve Soil Health

A new series of practical videos to help farmers understand and improve soil health was launched at the recent Groundswell Show.

Working in partnership with Innovation for Agriculture (IfA) and Ernest Cook Trust, the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) team have produced a series of “Learning from the Land” videos.

These showase easy-to-set-up soil demonstrations that can be carried oput by farmers and land managers in their own kitchens.  The videos highlight the importance of soil health and include practical techniques to help improve the overall health of soils in the UK.

Farmers can easily see how soils work to improve crop productivity while protecting the environment and reducing soil and nutrient losses.

More Information

Stephen Briggs presenting at Bath & West Soils Conference

Stephen Briggs, IfA’s Soil & Water Manager will be presenting at the Royal Bath & West of England Society’s summer Soils Conference.

The conference is held in partnership with FWAG, Hills to Levels project and Innovation for Agriculture.

Hear from distinguished Soil Specialists on topics to include the Science of Soils, Soils & Grassland, Improving Water Quality, Using Agroforestry to Soil Advantage, as well as the success of the Hills to Levels project.

Places can be booked at: https://bathandwestsoilsconference.eventbrite.co.uk or email emma.corr@bathandwest.co.uk or telephone 01749 82212

Soil Farmer Of The Year 2018

Simon Cowell, an arable farmer from Essex has been announced as the winner of the 2018 Soil Farmer of the Year.

Angus Gowthorpe from York has been awarded second place and William Steel from Hawkhurst third place.

The competition, now in its third year is organised by the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit (FCCT) and Innovation for Agriculture (IfA) and is kindly sponsored by NRM and Cotswold Seeds.

The competition aims to find famers and growers who are engaged with, and passionate about managing their soils in a way which supports productive agriculture, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and builds soil health, organic matter and carbon.

See our events pages for details of the Farm Walks that will be hosted by the winner and two runner-up farms.

More information

Agrocycle Project

IfA is a partner of the AgroCycle project which is a Horizon 2020 research and innovation project addressing the recycling and valorisation of waste from the agri-food sector.

Led by the School of Biosystems and Food Engineering at University College Dublin, the consortium of 26 partners comprises partners from 8 EU countries, two partners from mainland China, and one from Hong Kong.

The project takes a holistic approach to understanding and addressing how to make best use of the full range of waste streams associated with the agri-food industry. It will deliver the AgroCycle Protocol, a blueprint for achieving sustainable agri-food waste valorisation.

The resultant AgroCycle Protocol will deliver sustainable waste valorisation pathways addressing the European policy target of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030, as well contributing to the wave of change that is occurring in China in relation to sustainability.

AgroCycle will undertake a holistic analysis of agri-food waste value chains, from farm-to-table, including livestock and crop production, food processing and the retail sector. It will address a wide range of valorisation pathways, including: bio-fuels, high value-added biopolymers, energy and microbial fuel cells.

For more details visit the Agrocycle website

Healthy Soils Workshops

Innovation for Agriculture, in partnership with Catchment Sensitive Farming, are staging Healthy Soils workshops over the country this winter.

Commencing on the 13th December in Heckfield, Basingstoke, Stephen Briggs Nuffield Scholar, and David Gardener IfA CEO, will be delivering over 20 workshops to farmers and advisors before spring.

These events are free to attend and are focusing on the options and strategies for improving soil health and the increasing popularity in growing Cover Crops.

To find out more information or to book a place on a workshop in your area, please contact the CSF Farm Events Team on 0208 026 8780.


Soil Farmer Of The Year 2018 Launched

Sharing best practice and innovation through championing farmers who are improving their soils

The Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit and Innovation for Agriculture’s competition to find the UK’s Soil Farmer of 2018 is open for applications.

Following its success over the last two years, the competition is open again this year. It aims to find farmers and growers who are engaged with and passionate about managing their soils in a way which supports productive agriculture, biodiversity, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and builds soil organic matter.

Sustainable soil management is one of the cornerstones of profitable farm businesses, a thriving and diverse natural environment, and a transformation to a low carbon economy. Soil health is of critical importance to everyone and this competition champions farmers who understand the importance of soil, and are changing their management to protect and improve it.

The competition has attracted top quality farmers to apply, both large and small, conventional and organic, who were involved in a variety of enterprises on-farm. The competition has seen previous winners including Clive Bailye in 2016, and joint winners of Richard Suddes and Tim Parton in 2017.

The success of the first Soil Farmer of the Year competition exceeded our expectations”, explains FCCT director Jonathan Smith. “It was inspiring to read so many farmers and growers tell us what positive things they were doing for their soils. Judging it really was a difficult process, due to the high quality of entries. We’re hoping even more farmers and growers will want to compete for this prestigious prize this year. For FCCT it firmly places us as a champion of good soil management on farms, and demonstrating the potential farmland has to sequester carbon.”

The competition is open to any UK farmer or grower who are managing their soils in a way which optimises soil health and quality. Applications are being taken online through this link (insert link ), where there is more information and an opportunity to read the write ups from the last two years. The competition is being generously sponsored again by Cotswold Seeds, and the top three entries will all receive prizes of fertility building or green manure seed.

FCCT is delighted that this project is in partnership with 4 per 1000 Initiative, the international collaboration aiming to demonstrate that agriculture, and in particular agricultural soils can play a crucial role where food security and climate change are concerned. As the first project in the UK to be officially partnered by 4 per 1000, we firmly support the aims of the Initiative, and in particular recognise the enormous potential of farm soils to sequester carbon whilst providing multiple co-benefits to farmers and society.

Previous applicants are invited to apply again, and as a first this year, farmers are able to nominate others who they think are excelling in prioritising soil health in their business.

The competition opens on World Soils Day on the 5th December, and will close on the 5thof March 2018. Shortlisted applicants will be visited by the judging panel and the results will be published at the end of April. The top three applicants will also be hosting farm walks during 2018.


 Further information for journalists:

Contact: Becky Willson, Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit Project Manager, becky.willson@farmcarbontoolkit.org.uk  01579 372376 / 07875 35611

Coming soon: Demo units

Coming soon: Demo units for dairy sensors, grassland carbon and organic livestock

In the next four years, UK demonstration units will be established as showcases for sensor technologies in the dairy sector, grassland and carbon capture, and animal health in the organic sector. They will result from a new EU project called Nefertiti, in which Innovation for Agriculture (IfA) is involved along with 24 other partners from 16 countries. In addition to UK, the project will establish demonstrations right across Europe, some based on commercial farms and others at research institutes. The sensor technology element is a logical progression of our existing Data Driven Dairy Decisions for Farmers (4D4F) EU project.

The two other demo topics also fit well with our existing programmes on soil health and antibiotic reduction. A key part of Nefertiti will involve the exchange of information and experiences across the partnership, so that successful strategies can be replicated elsewhere.

So unhindered (so far, fingers crossed) by Brexit, we continue to exchange ideas across Europe and seek opportunities to engage with the Horizon 2020 science programme to achieve our organisational WHY (see first item) “to help farmers make best use of existing and emerging knowledge to…

Of course, we very much hope and intend that our involvement will continue in Europe after the dust has settled!

Earthworms deserve to be on your payroll

Earthworms should be on every farmer’s payroll, according to Des Kay, Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) officer in the east midlands. At one of 21 healthy soils workshops staged by IfA for CSF all over the country, he outlined a three-way gain from knowledge-driven farming that worked in sympathy with soil biology, not against it. “Land becomes more productive, the business more profitable, and the environment better protected,” he said, “To achieve all these requires a healthy earthworm population. They are an essential and highly productive part of your workforce.” On the same theme, leader of IfA’s healthy soils project Stephen Briggs revelled in telling crop growers at the workshops that they were really livestock farmers. “One hectare of healthy topsoil is home to about 50 tonnes of micro-livestock, mainly earthworms and eelworms, bacterial and protozoa,” he says. “Above ground, one lowland hectare can support about two adult cows or 20 breeding ewes. In contrast below ground, these micro-livestock amount to the equivalent of about 67 cows or 670 ewes. “To survive and thrive, these subterranean livestock require much the same as their above ground neighbours: A suitable environment in which to thrive, including balanced supplies of air, water and food. CSF operates where rivers are subject to sedimentation or leakage of nitrates or phosphates from farm land. It aims to help farmers keep those things where they’re most useful – on the farm – and away from rivers where they’re certainly not wanted.