Amendments for soil health in fruit

This field lab aims to investigate how the addition of different soil amendments affects soil health in fruit production systems.

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Field Lab Timeline

    11/2/2016 12:00:00 PM
  • First meeting

    First meeting
  • 2/28/2017 12:00:00 PM
  • Individual conversations with growers

    Individual conversations with growers
  • 4/2/2017 11:00:00 AM
  • Second meeting

    Second meeting
  • 7/30/2017 11:00:00 AM
  • Third meeting

    Third meeting
  • 12/31/2017 12:00:00 AM
  • Amendments being added (ongoing)

    Amendments being added (ongoing)
  • 3/21/2018 12:00:00 AM
  • Fourth meeting

    Fourth meeting
  • 3/30/2018 11:00:00 AM
  • Project summary meeting

    Project summary meeting
  • 1/31/2019 12:00:00 AM
  • Year Two review meeting

    Year Two review meeting
  • 1/31/2020 12:00:00 AM
  • Third year results gathered

    Third year results gathered
  • 2/28/2020 12:00:00 AM
  • Analysis of results

    Analysis of results
For further information hover over the above milestone marks
  • Discussion

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  • Achievements

    August 2018

    Summer meeting - postponed


    Please email with any queries. For more information on the Innovative Farmers Programme, please visit the website.

    Milestone: Year Two review meeting

    March 2018

    Early outcomes

    The meeting was held at Eastbrook Farm near Swindon in Wiltshire which is part of the trial. Run by Helen Browning the farm is implementing a 200 acre agroforestry planting.

    The group heard feedback from 4 triallists, and there are two additional triallists (Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons and Liberty Orchard) that are part of the group but have not yet added the amendments (they are going on in the next couple of weeks) so had nothing yet to report.

    It is early days for all the trials, so far the only clear outcomes were:

    - The trial at Iain Tolhurst’s farm found that adding fresh Ramial woodchip (i.e. chip from branches that were less than 7cm in diameter) performed roughly similar to the control, which in his case was composted woodchip. If these results are born out during the rest of the trial this would mean that growers might not need to compost woodchip from smaller wood before spreading or mulching.

    - RHS Wisley trials found weed control much better in woodchip mulch compared to the compost control. Also the P indexes were high, as you might expect. Depending on your soil this might present an issue if you were planning to regularly mulch with woodchip. Also Holly woodchip seemed to hold moisture in the soil better than under the Alder mulch or compost. Further soil analysis will be done.

    - Eastbrook have been recording information using the Sectormentor app. Though it is still too early to see soil health results they believe that they will be able to collect more information about plant growth and yield and therefore in the long term assess the health below ground too.

    The next meeting will be held at Boxford Farm Suffolk in early July, details TBC.

    Milestone: Fourth meeting

    December 2017

    Field lab article published in the Fruit Grower

    Great article on the October field lab open day with updates on the trials published in the Fruit Grower. View the article in the Field Lab docs [free login required].

    Milestone: Third meeting

    October 2017

    Field lab status update meeting held - 2 October 2017

    A meeting was held at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxon. There were 18 attendees including representatives from 3 participating farms. The attendees were a mixture of orchard managers and gardeners, many of whom were there for the first time demonstrating a continued interest in the project.

    There were updates from the trials including from the three participating sites present. See the GREATsoils fruit soil amendments update - October 2017 presentation from the day in Field Lab Documents [Free login required]. This was followed by a presentation by Dr Paul Alexander, RHS soil scientist, on using organic matter as a soil conditioner in horticulture.

    The Day finished with a visit to the Le Manoir orchard where enriched biochar is being tested.

    James Dewhurst led a tour of the Le Manoir

    Milestone: Third meeting

    April 2017

    Reviewed progress and methods

    The meeting was held at Tolhurst Organic in Oxon. There were 18 attendees including 6 from participating producers.

    Anja Vieweger of ORC presented on methods for setting up relatively easy and cost effective field experiments to reliably compare different soil amendments on your field. The trial participants gave feedback on their experiments so far. The group also gathered input for for finalising of the field lab proposal.

    Iain Tolhurst led a field visit of the agroforestry field and trial site, including a woodchip composting and demonstration of the field experiment setup.

    Milestone: Second meeting

    March 2017

    Growers contacted to discuss trial plans

    Sally Westaway of ORC contacted participating producers to discuss their plans for trialling inputs.

    Milestone: Individual conversations with growers

    November 2016

    Content of trial agreed

    An initial group of nine growers decided to take part in the trial. Included in the trials will be enriched biochar, digestate, wood chip, green waste, wood chip as mulch, mycorrhiza, ramial woodchip compost.

    The kick off meeting, held in Kent, included technical presentations from:
    - Dr Louisa Robsinson Boyer of Plant Works will be speaking to us about mycorrhizae
    - James MacPhail of Carbon Gold speaking about Biochar
    - Sally Westaway of ORC speaking about ramial woodchip compost

    There are a number of other growers who couldn't come to the meeting who are interested in taking part. They will be contacted.

    Milestone: First meeting

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