Thirty five farmers, land managers and environmental specialists came together on Thursday 15 November to learn about the links between good soil health and crop yields at the Brighton ChaMP for Water soil and nutrient workshop. The aim of the day was to stimulate thinking about innovative ways to improve groundwater quality through more sustainable land management.
Addressing rising nitrate trends in groundwater is a key part of the Brighton ChaMP for Water project. Research into cover crops funded through the project in the South Downs National Park has proven that planting different crops can help reduce nitrogen pollution.
Keynote speaker Joel Williams included a practical demonstration in his talk about the fundamentals of soil health and integrated nitrogen management. Joel is an expert on integrating soil chemical and biological assessments and using plant nutritional analyses to develop joined-up strategies for managing crop production. He has worked in both conventional and organic farming systems in the UK and Europe.
Robin Kelly of Southern Water gave an overview of grant schemes available to farmers to reduce diffuse groundwater pollution and Shai Gilad, Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer, gave an update on ChaMP’s rural programme including plans for crop and soil testing for trace elements and foliar nitrate application over the coming year.
Susie Howells, ChaMP Project Manager, said:
“The informative sessions stimulated some great discussions between farmers, land managers and environmental specialists on how to translate the theories into practice in the face of competing priorities. A number of our attendees have already committed to start implementing changes and joining our cover crop trials as a result.”
Leasa Williams of Southern Water, said:
“The key take home message was that good soil health is vital for achieving high yields and for reducing nitrate leaching into the groundwater. Simple measures like adding carbon, diversifying crops and protecting fungi can go a long way to help improve soil health.”
Simon Deacon of the Environment Agency, said:
“The guidance and technical discussions that Joel provided have given farmers further food for thought to consider managing nitrate applications, better soil management and cover crops.”
Brighton ChaMP (Chalk Management Partnership) for Water is a collection of organisations, led by the South Downs National Park Authority, which aims to protect and improve the quality of groundwater in the Brighton Chalk block, to ensure it remains a sustainable resource for public water supply.