Getting to the Root of Soil Health

Adrian Hares, Wiltshire farmer and soil advisor tell us about the new group he's coordinating, the Wilts Soil & Roots Innovators.

Adrian is a tenant farmer on Roundhill Farm in Wiltshire. He farms 130 hectares of mixed beef & combinable crops and has been organic since 2001. Adrian also works with Courtyard Agriculture as a FACTS trained soil advisor, working in the field with the Intelligent Precision Farming service.

The Wilts Soil & Roots Innovators are a mixed group of organic and conventional farmers who are investigating soil health. This year they will be carrying out baseline soil tests on 8 trial sites, with treatments applied next year. The group is coordinated by Adrian and their researchers are John Hammond, a senior research fellow in the Centre for Food Security at Reading University; and Anja Vieweger from Organic Research Centre.

How did you get involved in Innovative Farmers?

I’d heard about Innovative Farmers from a few people, but I first really understood the benefits at the Soil Symposium last November. That’s where I realised it’s something that could be relevant to me and the farmers and businesses I work with.

I’d been conscious for a while of the need to look at soil nutrient availability. I knew there were a lot of us in my corner of Wiltshire who had similar concerns, so when I heard about Innovative Farmers it gave us the opportunity to look at the issue as a group.

Inspecting soil at Charles Hunter Smart's, Oxfordshire farm

How have you found the process of setting up a group?

It’s all been very straightforward. I attended the training day last year which was a good opportunity to meet like-minded coordinators. I received lots of back up from the team at Innovative Farmers, they’ve helped me get started and given me support with using the web portal.

I spoke with a few farmers to gauge whether there was an interest and several members signed up straight away. I also spoke with Courtyard Agriculture about how they could support and they were keen to get involved. I’ve found it very useful having the backup of a local company.

What would you say to someone thinking of coordinating an IF group?

Coordinating a group does take time, but there is support and it’s one of those things where the more you put in, the more you get out. Be realistic about the amount of time you’ve got to dedicate to your group, but be conscious of the benefits as well. You’ll be learning from farming colleagues and researchers, and should see benefits for your own business and those around you.

If you've got an idea for a field lab, or would like to coordinate a group, get in touch

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