Farmers test the impact of soil management on earthworms and deep rooting

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The EIP-AGRI funded YEN Yield Testing project has brought together ADAS researchers, farmers and academics to test the impact of soil management on yield and rooting through encouraging deep burrowing earthworms. This Farmer Innovation Group (FIG) was formed in August 2018.

Farmers test the impact of soil management on earthworms and deep rooting

The ‘deep rooting’ FIG includes farmers Rory Lay (Shropshire), Joe Pell, (Nottinghamshire), Andrew Wilson (Yorkshire) and Rob Fox (Leamington Spa). Each farmer has set up a different trial on farm, testing the effects of different cultivations and/or farm yard manure (FYM). One example trial includes comparing deep cultivation, direct drilling and shallow cultivation. Another trial is comparing strip till with FYM, strip till no FYM, deep cultivation no FYM and deep cultivation with FYM.  

ADAS has visited the farms and counted the number of earthworms and middens (small accumulations of straw/leaf litter above the burrow of a deep-dwelling earthworm). We carried out a visual evaluation of topsoil structure (VESS) and sub-soil VESS (Sub-VESS) and also assessed soil strength using a penetrometer. ADAS will analyse yield map data using their Agronomics methodology to determine the effect of the different treatments on yield. Additionally, the impact on crop biomass, through assessing the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), is being monitored throughout the season.

ADAS consultant, Dom Edwards, during a VESS assessment

Results from the trials will be available later in the season. Each of the trial fields will be entered into YEN, so we will have an understanding of whether there were effects on components of yield from the different treatments as well.

The group is planning a visit to Joe Pell’s farm in June to look at the trials Joe has established, to discuss the results so far and to share ideas and knowledge. It is hoped that the FIG will continue beyond the lifetime of the EIP funding, but additional funding will be required.

For more information on this trial looking at the impact of soil management on earthworms and deep rooting contact Charlotte White.

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