Frontier introduces demonstration sites

To further strengthen its commitment to soil and plant health expertise and innovation, Frontier has introduced five new ‘Soil Life’ demo sites which will be part of the company’s ‘3DThinking’ trials and research programme.

Long term research into sustainable soil improvement 

Working in partnership with host farmers Frontier will use these sites to research and demonstrate best practice around soil management over a period of at least four/five years; helping farmers to develop sustainable arable systems.

Sites have been chosen to reflect a wide range of soil types and challenges within the rotation.  Common elements of plans for all of the sites will be reduced or zero tillage, subsoiling, long term cover crops and organic manures.

The sites will also use two different types of field layout. One in which all the various treatments are contained and compared in one field, and another where the treatments are across neighbouring fields but confined to one tramline in each field.

Each site has the support of a Frontier agronomist as well as advice and expertise from the wider Frontier soil and plant health team.

Two levels of report – Soil Life Fundamentals and In Depth

Soil Life is Frontier’s bespoke soil health check service which provides comprehensive testing of soils and post testing expert analysis of results and advice.  The service includes two levels of report,Soil Life Fundamentals (which gives a basic look at the characteristics of the soil) and Soil Life In Depth (which investigates the physical properties of the soil, such as compaction, in detail).

Chris Tye, national fertiliser manager from Frontier, who leads the Soil Life initiative, said: “The sites are building on the interventions and practices that can help farmers manage and improve soil condition. We will gather a huge amount of information, experience and practical solutions from these sites which we will use in a number of ways.  We’ll invite farmers to visit them to show them what we’ve been doing and so that they can talk to the team supporting the site and to the host farmers themselves.

“We’ll also use data from the sites to better inform our agronomy colleagues which will enable them to talk with confidence to their growers about practical soil improvements solutions that they can implement on their own farms.”

Alistair Hunter Blair, host farmer at the Soil Life demo site in Herefordshire, added: “One of our biggest problems is organic matter and we are trying to increase that.  We would like to increase the water retention of our soil and one of the ways to do that is to increase organic matter. Having Frontier on board is really, really helpful because we have access to their technical expertise. That’s the one thing that I struggle with. I can read as much as I can but having access to the labs and everything else that comes with Frontier’s technical support is very important.”

Soil Life demo site locations

Location Soil type Specific site challenges/interventions being investigated
Haddington  East Lothian

 

Silty clay loam. Soil structure and organic matter levels/widening the rotation.

Producing potatoes without the use of the plough.

Consett, Durham

 

Silty clay loam.

High altitude – soils remain cooler longer and lose heat more rapidly in autumn.

Organic matter levels and microbial activity/using imported organic materials, cover crops and grass leys.
Nassington, Wansford, Cambridgeshire

 

Clay loam. Black-grass and compaction/long term use of cover crops.

Addressing compaction to enable optimum rooting.

Ross on Wye, Herefordshire Sandy/silty clay loam. Organic matter levels and water retention/reducing cultivations, min till. Reducing mineralisation through improved organic matter.
Tonbridge, Kent

 

Silty clay loam. The use of catch crops to improve soil health.

 

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.