Tag Archives: Simply Sustainable Soils

The biggest soil management challenges this year

This week we will be launching the first issue of our new service, LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management Bulletin. If you’re a LEAF member you will be getting this next week – keep your eyes on your inbox! The first issue is all about sustainable soil management, so we’re asking what you think will be the biggest challenge to your soil over the coming year. Please answer the poll below, we will be following this up in a future post.

SONY DSC Soil management is something of a hot topic for us at the moment, in our last blog post Alice Midmer, LEAF’s Projects Coordinator, wrote about our new sustainable soil management case studies, containing practical information on soil management practices and lots of soil data. You can download six sample case studies on our website here. A further 17 will be coming soon to LEAF members. For more details on LEAF membership click here.

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New perspectives on sustainable soil management

Alice Midmer, LEAF

Alice Midmer, LEAF

Alice Midmer joined the LEAF team last year to produce some practical on farm background to the Simply Sustainable Soils booklet. In this post, Alice tells us about her experience visiting some of our members’ farms across the UK.

Fresh from two terms of an Environmental Bioscience Masters at Warwick University, I went straight in to a more practical experience of environmental matters and food production, with a three month placement at LEAF. My task: To produce some practical on farm background to the Simply Sustainable Soils booklet.

The first task was to assemble a list of ‘Reference Farms’ from which to take detailed soil data and site-specific soil management information. The project was run in partnership with Asda and the reference farms consisted of both LEAF Demonstration Farmers, LEAF members and Asda farms. Next a (lengthy) questionnaire was produced to ensure sufficient data collection. With that, the only thing left to do was get out there!

The fields at JB Shropshire, one of the six preview case studies available to download

The fields at JB Shropshire, one of the six preview case studies available to download

New to agriculture, armed with my Mini and some reassuring words from the LEAF team, I was off.  During July, I was lucky enough to visit 23 farms during what turned out to be the hottest, sunniest, loveliest month in years – what a joy (and contrast to the current weather)! The farms were located in a total of sixteen counties but the many Mini miles on the motorway were made worthwhile by the beautiful parts of the country I was able to visit and the fascinating and knowledgeable farmers I had the pleasure to meet (and no, none of them paid me to say that).

In addition to collecting valuable and vast amounts of data, these visits also provided me with a fantastic insight into soil management and Integrated Farm Management. After just a couple of visits, the complexities, compromises and trade-offs farmers face on a daily basis became apparent. Through seeing first hand some of the sustainable soil management techniques deployed by many farmers, I started to understand the real meaning of IFM and what this means to farmers across the board. This further understanding has made me incredibly keen to contribute all I can to the industry in terms of a fresh perspective, analytical experience and communicating farmers’ messages to the wider public.

Lower HighfieldThe opportunity to visit over fifteen LEAF Demonstration Farms, working effectively and producing a more sustainable food source economically, was an incredibly good introduction to agriculture. In addition, LEAF Demonstration Farms encourage technical visits from a wide range of farmer groups and so if seeing different aspects of Integrated Farm Management in practice sounds like something that might benefit your business find your nearest LEAF Demonstration Farm here. Alternatively, I compiled a case study for each of the farms I visited. To get a sneak peek into the Integrated Farm Management ethos of some of the farms I visited and see how sustainable soil management works in different scenarios take a look here.


soilsThe case studies consist of a number of different soil, farm and enterprise types and six are available to download from the LEAF website here, a full set of 23 will be available to LEAF members soon.

Valuing Resources: why do we think it’s so important?

The team here at LEAF have been working hard over the last few months to organise our annual President’s Event. It’s all come together and we’ve got a fantastic line up of speakers. In fact, it’s come together so well that there are a limited number of spaces left already!

The theme of the event is ‘Valuing Resources’ and all the speakers will be talking around this theme. The ‘Valuing Resources’ theme has appeared a couple of times already this year with the launch of our ‘Simply Sustainable Soils’ guide and our new Water Management Tool , set to be launched at the event. It’s also been a recurring theme in Caroline Drummond’s blog posts and our “LEAF Talks…” events.

So, why do we think it’s so important? Ensuring world food security in light of changing demands and the impact of climate change may be some of the biggest challenges facing society this century, and we think the efficient use of the world’s resources are a big part of this. Through our popular ‘Simply Sustainable Soils‘ guide we’ve been helping many farmers manage their soil more efficiently and with the launch of our Water Management Tool happening in just a few weeks, we’re really helping farmers gear up to manage their resources more effectively.

Tackling these issues at our President’s Event on 2nd November will be; keynote speaker, Professor Sir David Baulcombe of the University of Cambridge, who will speak on the growing opportunity for plant genetics to address the challenges of sustainability. With other speakers including Allan Wilkinson, Head of Agriculture at HSBC Bank, Andrew Burgess, Director at Produce World, Chris Brown, Head of Ethical and Sustainable sourcing at Asda, Paul Dove, Technical Director at Molson Coors Brewing Company and the Rt Hon Michael Jack, Food and Agriculture Advisor to HSBC Bank.

If you would like to book one of the limited spaces for our President’s Event on the 2nd November 2011, Canary Wharf, London, please see our website here [Note: all places are now filled for LEAF’s President’s Event 2011 and we now have a waiting list, please get in touch with Evelyn See at LEAF for more information].

Simply Sustainable Soils: Monitoring earthworms

This week we have launched ‘Simply Sustainable Soils‘ in partnership with Asda, a hands-on guide to help farmers get the most out of their soil, looking at soil texture, structure, drainage, compaction, nutrients and biological health. Continue reading