In the final days before applications close for the Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grant Scheme, arable, potato and vegetable farmers are being urged to apply for funding for floatation tyres to reduce the impact of farm machinery on their soil.
One of the largest threats to soil structure is the compaction by machinery, says Zach Reilly of SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), and facilitator of Farming For A Better Climate’s Soil Regenerative Agriculture Group, but the correct tyres can reduce pressure by up to 40%:
“Compaction is inevitable with heavy machinery and the number of passes needed in modern agriculture, but one way that the soil structure can be protected is through the use of flexion tyres. The carcase of these tyres flex, creating a larger contact area for the machinery with the soil, reducing ground pressure. Very High Flexion tyres, or VF tyres, can reduce ground pressure by up to 40% compared to standard tyres.
“The Government has recognised the environmental value of good, working soil to the future of agriculture and several types of tyres are available as retro-fit options under the Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grant Scheme. If you are thinking seriously about looking after your soil, you should be seriously considering applying for funding to help fit these specialist tyres.”
James Hopkinson at Cloud Farming has been exploring the most effective methods of soil regeneration both independently and as part of the Soil Regenerative Agriculture Group, a discussion forum with five progressive farmers in the East of Scotland. He has been using VF tyres for a number of years:
“When sowing a field, up to 85% of the field will be driven on depending on implement width and tyre size. When you consider the whole crop production cycle, from primary cultivation to spraying to harvest many parts of the field can be driven on several times. Using flexible tyres alongside our reduced tillage regime has improved water and root movement within the soil and the pore space is much better within the soil profile.”
Alongside the benefits observed at Cloud Farming, improved soil structure can also have an environmental benefit. Soil microbes can cause Nitrous oxide emissions, a potent greenhouse gas, when they are exposed to anaerobic environments.
Mr Reilly explained: “The process of denitrification is a complex one with several stages. When soil microbes respire without oxygen several gases can be emitted, and soil compaction can cause this. Soils with a high water filled pore space can emit N2, which is not harmful, however soils with between 40% to 100% water filled pore space can emit N20, a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential approximately 300 times that of carbon dioxide.”
When looking to safeguard soil structure, Mr Reilly said that it is also important to consider other interactions between the soil and machinery including wheel slip which can cause shear failure and smearing, machinery ballasting which can influence wheel slip and machinery efficiency; and also the set-up of the implement including the critical depth of a tine and the rake angle of discs or coulters.
The Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grant Scheme is a pilot grant scheme introduced to support agricultural business to meet challenging Climate Change targets and to promote sustainable farming and land use. Applications close on 11th October.