Best Soil in Show returns to highlight the importance of healthy soils

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The James Hutton Institute re-launched its Best Soil in Show competition at the Royal Highland Show last week, with the support of NFU Scotland and Scottish Government, in a drive to highlight the importance of the critical role land managers play in maintaining healthy soils.

The competition will see farmers and land managers from across Scotland pitching their soils against each other, with soil scientists at the James Hutton Institute judging entries on compositional, structural and chemical criteria. The winner will be announced on World Soil Day, 5th December 2022.

Professor Colin Campbell, chief executive of the James Hutton Institute, said: “Everything in our lives is underpinned by soil — our food, our homes, our biodiversity, the water we drink, and so much more. Best Soil in Show highlights the importance of maintaining healthy soils to deliver biological, ecological and ultimately economic benefits and raising awareness amongst land managers to understand the characteristics and condition of their soil will help towards making informed decisions about its management.”

Soil health increasingly important

Martin Kennedy, NFU Scotland president, added: “Faced with extreme volatility in input costs, good soil health becomes increasingly important in the delivery of sustainable, productive, and profitable farming systems. Through the recently announced Track One of the National Test Programme, Scottish farmers and crofters are being supported to carry out a proper assessment of their soils and, when combined with carbon auditing, will present an accurate picture of how much carbon is sequestered by our crops and improved grassland and demonstrate how our soil health contributes positively to our ability to produce food in a sustainable way.”

The values of Best Soil in Show are closely aligned with the Scottish Government’s National Test Programme, whose purpose is to make Scotland a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture.

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform minister Màiri McAllan MSP said: “I was delighted to visit the James Hutton Institute stand at the Royal Highland Show and find out more about the excellent work of the organisation.

Natural asset

“Soils are one of Scotland’s natural assets – entire ecosystems depend on it and it is a key part of the success of our food and drink sector and a crucial sink for greenhouse gases.

“These awards demonstrate good practices in soils management. The Best Soil in Show award recognises the efforts of farmers and land managers in managing their soils skilfully, now and for the future.”

The James Hutton Institute has over 90 years’ experience in soil and crop research and also hosts Scotland’s National Soils Archive, which is a reference to the state of the soils in the past and is used to test new analyses and monitor changes in soil over time. To make this data available to land managers, farmers and the general public, the Institute has developed a mobile app called SoilFinder that helps farmers find their soil type and what soil carbon levels they should expect for that soil type on their farm. The data comes from the Scotland’s National Soil Database and will show minimum and maximum levels of soil carbon and they can compare their own data against these benchmarks. Also, the James Hutton Institute has partnered with SEPA, NatureScot, Scottish Forestry and the Scottish Government to create the Scotland’s Soil website

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