AHDB Horticulture announces “industry leading” soils programme

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Following a funded-study aimed at identifying gaps in horticultural soils knowledge, a comprehensive ‘industry leading’ programme of projects to address the need for better information on soils management has now been commissioned by AHDB Horticulture.

The commissioned projects recognise the wider importance of soils, a priority for AHDB, and their importance to the long term sustainability of horticultural crops.

The original scoping exercise found several integral gaps in soils knowledge, including key soil health metrics and measuring; nutrient management; better ‘whole system’ management practices for soil-borne diseases; precision agriculture tools to improve soils management and data generation, and analysis to help growers become smarter about data. This helped inform a comprehensive programme of work, through three major new research projects.

John Sedgwick, Strategic Agronomy Manager, Produce World and chair of AHDB Horticulture Field Vegetables Panel said, “Field vegetable growers rely upon the soil as the basis of their production systems. The interaction of soils and plants is very complex and the three new soils projects will provide growers with tools to assess soil health, inform growers with regards to the potential for precision farming solutions, and provide best practice guidelines.

The possible output from these research and knowledge transfer projects is industry leading and has the potential to deliver soil knowledge that will drive the UK industry forward.”

The new projects comprise:

· A knowledge transfer project to train growers in how to assess and improve their soils with information disseminated through case studies, guidance documents, interactive practical workshops and events, films, webinars, train the trainer events and an online knowledge exchange hub (CP 107b)

· A project to evaluate the current and future potential of precision farming technology to optimise soil and nutrient management across a range of annual, biennial and perennial crops. A grower guide on ‘Improved soil and nutrient management in horticulture’ will be made available (CP 107c) and

· A soil health management information system project which will use both historical grower soils data and that collected within the project to develop models for an electronic guide which will help growers to understand how current soil management practices affect their soils. A series of events and workshops will be organised to train growers and agronomists to use the e-Guide (CP 107d)

Cheryl Brewster, Research & KT Manager, Field Crops Team leader, AHDB Horticulture said, “This soils programme for Horticulture is the beginning of an exciting journey and is allowing us, for the first time, to focus the minds of soils scientists on horticultural crops and the range of issues our industry faces. Moving forwards we will work closely with all the AHDB levy bodies to look for solutions in soil health measurement and monitoring for both horticulture and agriculture”.

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