MycoRhizaSoil: Combining wheat genotypes with cultivation methods to facilitate mycorrhizosphere organisms improving soil quality and crop resilience

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Animal and Plant Sciences

Abstract

Loss of soil organic matter content and soil macroaggregates (crumbs) as a result of arable cultivation reduces soil water and nutrient holding capacity and are major global constraints on crop yields and efficient use of fertilizer. In the UK wheat yield have not increased over nearly 20 years due to interactions between genetic, environment and management constraints.
Modern wheat breeding has focussed on selection for disease resistance and increasing yield and quality of the grain, without consideration of other traits that can influence soil quality and ultimately, the long-term sustainabilty of soil. Soil erosion is a major global problem exacerbated by ploughing, loss of soil organic matter and the macroaggregates that hold soil together against water and wind erosion. One of the most important functional groups of organisms that are involved in stabilizing soil macroaggregates and contributing to soil organic matter storage are symbiotic fungi called mycorrhizas that receive sugars from plant roots in return for providing nutrients and water to the plants. We have recently shown that some modern wheat varieties have limited or no ability to form mycorrhizal symbiosis, and members of our consortium were amongst the first to show that conventional arable farming reduces the diversity and functioning of these symbionts. Loss of these symbionts and their functioning is thought to be contributory to loss of soil quality, both directly through effects on soil organic matter and soil structure, and indirectly though reductions in defences against pathogens which are induced by the symbiosis and plant growth promoting rhizobacteria that are thought to act synergistically with mycorrhizas.
MycoRhizaSoil will determine the crucial roles mycorrhiza and co-associated soil microorganisms play in maintaining soil structure and organic matter content, which are required for high yields, and directly addresses for the first time the benefits of selecting wheat genotypes and less intensive management to enhance the functional benefits of these crop-microbe interactions to deliver lower input, more sustainable and resilient wheat production.
Our approach combines laboratory and field based research using wheat lines that differ in mycorrhiza-forming capacity but are otherwise genetically very similar, selected over 500 lines of wheat bred from two parents that differed in mycorrhiza-forming ability. The laboratory-based research will resolve the mechanistic basis of mycorrhiza-induced systemic defenses to important root and shoot pathogens that cause major yield losses of wheat in the UK and globally. In a series of sequential field trials using the selected wheat lines we will determine the extent to which artificial inoculation with mycorrhizal fungi, the temporary conversion of crop land to grassland (to restore mycorrhiza) and adoption of no-tillage leads to improvements in soil quality and crop resilence to drought, excess water and native diseases compared to wheat grown conventionally with annual tillage.
Our agenda-setting research programme identifies a new set of targets for optimising plant breeding and arable management for sustainable wheat production. Our ambitious ultimate goal is to provide the scientific evidence to evaluate the benefits of simultaneously reducing the need for ploughing (one of the most fossil-fuel demanding farm operations and one of the most damaging to soil conservation and sustainability) and increasing the activities of beneficial soil microorganisms through wheat genotype selection. In combination we predict these approaches will increase the storage of soil organic carbon in the surface soil, help restore water-stable macroaggregates and increase crop resilience to climate stress (too much and too little water) and diseases.

Technical Summary

This project will use double-haploid lines of wheat derived from a mapping population of over 500 lines in which the parents have contrasting phenotype for arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) competence, to determine the effect of wheat mycorrhiza on rhizosphere microbial populations, AM-inducible defences and soil quality (soil organic matter content, macroaggregate stability, soil porosity and water holding capacity). Intensive modern arable farming methods combined with selection of less AM-competent wheat is hypothesised to have contributed to the loss of soil structure and organic matter content that now is a major constraint on crop productivity, especially under conditions of inadequate or too much rainfall. AM fungi have been shown to be vital players in soil aggregate stability and contribute to soil organic matter storage but to date the possibility of actively selecting wheat varieties and agronomic management practices to synergistically harness the benefits of AM fungi and associated Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR) for sustainable soil quality has not been considered. We will resolve the basis of mycorrhiza inducible defences against major wheat fungal pathogens- take all and Septoria, and the potentialy synergistic interactions between mycorrhiza and PGPR. We will use wheat lines with contrasting mycorrhizal competence, but otherwise genetically very similar, selected from the mapping population. In the field we will establish a sequential trial of the wheat lines on plots under conventional tillage and no-tillage management, with and without addition of commercially available mycorrhizal inoculum. In addition a grass ley will be established and planted with the wheat lines after 3 years- to assess how this traditional way of rebuilding soil quality compares to the other management treatments. The work will quantify mycorrhizosphere carbon fluxes into aggregates using 14C and conduct metagenomic analyses of mycorrhizosphere communities.

Planned Impact

This project will resolve the fundamental role of soil microbes in sustainable wheat production, providing essential genetic and performance data that have the potential to underpin the development of new wheat varieties, optimised for sustainable low-input agriculture. The environmental benefits of the project include more sustainable agro-ecosystems with less dependence on chemical inputs that may have detrimental environmental impacts, and restoration of critical soil functions that have been degraded by conventional agriculture.

The societal benefits from the project include increased food security, enhanced farmer's incomes and reduced occupational exposure of farmers to fungicide/pesticides. In addition, as new varieties developed as a result of the outcomes of this project are likely to give greatest financial benefits under less intensive management, they will help to make sustainable agriculture increasingly economically attractive, and thereby help to promote biodiversity and improved quality of life and environment in rural areas. These core outcomes of the project directly influence 8 specific stakeholder groups (pre and post farmgate as well as policy makers): (i) Farmers, farm managers - benefit through new soil management practices (ii) Statutory agencies involved in water and soil conservation (E.g. Natural England, Syngenta Soil and Water Protection) (iii) Game and Wildlife Conservation (iv) Cereal Processors (v) Government policy makers (DEFRA) - innovation in agricultural industries (vi) Supermarkets (vii) The wider public (links with aims of GFS - improved productivity, sustainable crops), (viii) RAGT Seeds (one of Europe's largest cereal breeders) - new market opportunity as well as the principal route to commercialisation of data produced from this project in the form of new wheat varieties.
This project represent an industrial collaboration with international wheat breeder, RAGT Seeds Ltd., for the development and commercialisation of new cultivars of wheat that require reduced input in terms of pesticides and inorganic fertilisers by harnessing beneficial soil microbes. This provides a clear opportunity for commercialisation of our outputs.

To disseminate information and promote the benefits of MycoRhizaSoil research and ensure the relevant stakeholders are consulted throughout the project we will hold 3 events:

- A Launch event in September 2014 at the Hazelwood Hotel, close to the University of Leeds farm, to establish members of a user liaison group. Invitees will include Velcourt Farm Management, Harper Adams University, RAGT Seeds and the Game and Wildlife Trust Allerton Project)
- A 2-day project review and outreach planning meeting in April 2017 at the Allerton Project Visitor Centre at Loddington with selected external stakeholders.
- One day outreach meeting in the final year of the project at the Allerton Project Visitor Centre to demonstrate research outcomes and communicate findings to farmers and policy makers, following the successful model we used in a meeting co-hosted with the Organic Growers Alliance and facilitated by the Technology Strategy Board Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network (see http://bit.ly/HNiOOs [ES-KTN site] & http://bit.ly/1cKLwND [OGA site]).

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Within 2 years of planting a grass-clover leys on land that has been continuously cropped for decades, we have seen marked improvements in soil structure and biological functioning- these results are not yet published but provide an early indication of the anticipated longer-term benefits of reinstating the use of leys for soil health to be tested in this project. We have achieved near-average UK wheat yields but using less than 20% of typical UK N fertilizer use by direct drilling into ley in 2017-18 season. Wheat plants with commercial mycorrhizal inoculum added to soil showed reduced ear pathology at harvest, and there were interactions between tillage treatment and extent of pathology. Soil quality in grass-clover leys introduced into arable rotations showed marked improvement in water-holding capacity, aggregation and organic carbon storage in macroaggregates (large crumbs). These soil quality improvements reduce flood risks and risks of chemical and soil run-off fields into water courses.
Exploitation Route See earlier response with respect to our engagement activities with farmers and land managers. The Involvement of Jonathan Leake in the recently funded NERC Yorkshire iCASP consortium as the Academic Lead for Sustainable Agriculture & Communications provides a clear pathway to assist delivering on these larger scale benefits from rhizophere biology effects on soil health to hydrological functioning to catchment-scale. Importantly, our findings, once more complete, also should feed into post-brexit farming policies especially considering the impacts we are seeing that can affect hydrological functions such as run-off. We have fed key findings of our research to Defra in relation to future farm payment and environmental land Management Schemes.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description The extent to which conventional intensive cultivation of cereal crops in short rotations with no break in cropping for decades has impacted soil quality, as demonstrated by our research is of major concern to farmers, agricultural advisors, land managers and estate owners. These findings fed directly into the evidence we submitted to the Government Inquiry into soil health concerning loss of soil organic matter and soil compaction, and our concerns about the lack of effective monitoring and lack of protection for UK arable soils. The Government response to the inquiry and the evidence presented is awaited, the initial response of the previous minister was underwhelming. Over the past year we have built a highly effective impact pathway to farmers and land managers through our working directly with farmers in conducting research on their land, reporting our finding back to them (Kellogg's Origins), and through group meetings presentations and farm visits with farmers (Asda Pathfinders, Kellogg's Origins). Our spin-off work on mycorrhizas in winter cover crops has been of considerable interest to these practitioners. The snowballed- series of meetings with agricultural consultants Agrii and the Crown Estate resulted from their immediate interest in our work on soil quality, cropping systems, mycorrhizas and rhizosphere interactions in arable cropping at our first meetings, and their wanting to engage with us- resulting in a series of follow up meetings and the development of collaborations and funding applications with these partners. We have continued (2017-18) to develop highly effective knowledge exchange pipelines from this project and the related project SoilBioHedge with very frequent invitations to speak to farmers and farmer advisory groups through our project partner link with the Allerton Project, and through the P3 centre of excellence for translational plant science at the University of Sheffield coordinating workshops with stakeholders in agri-business, and through an expanding network of contacts that have seen our presentations on the research. The effects of our leys on soil quality are very visible and are catching a lot of interest.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Two written submissions were made by Jonathan Leake as lead author, to the Parliamentary Inquiry into UK Soil health, on behalf of the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, at the University of Sheffield, and on behalf of the White Rose Sustainable Agriculture Consortium of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. Both submissions were published on the website of the inquiry and one of the submissions was referenced in the final report of the committee.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description Restoring soil quality through re-integration of leys and sheep into arable rotations
Amount £769,325 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/R021716/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 10/2022
 
Description Soil Security Capital Equipment Award: Modules for mobile laboratory: Advion expression-S Compact Mass Spectrometer
Amount £1,127,000 (GBP)
Funding ID CC16_077 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2016 
 
Description White Rose BBSRC DTP studentship: Linking metabolomics and metagenomics to resolve plant-microbial interactions involved in soil aggregation. With Dr Thorunn Helgason University of York
Amount £93,668 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2021
 
Description White Rose Sustainable Agriculture: BIOchemical-physical-biological function of Sludge in Agriculture Soils (BIOSAS) Research Studentship network. Effects of sludge-rainfall interactions on soil quality and wheat production
Amount £195,000 (GBP)
Organisation White Rose University Consortium 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 03/2020
 
Description Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust 
Organisation Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We are undertaking research jointly with the trust on the Allerton Demonstration Farm in Leicestershire.
Collaborator Contribution Given the strong complementarity of the SoilBioHedge project to the current goals and activities of the Trust, we are able to offer considerable in-kind support for this project. This includes offering arable fields and leys of different ages, together with hedgerows and field margins and deciduous woodlands which are already in place that would be ideal sites to sample in the landscape-scale parts of the project. The Trust also has a modern laboratory on site which will be available for sample preparation. We will provide advice on management of the experimental plots at Leeds University Farm, based on our considerable expertise in all aspects of agronomy and crop production, particularly the use of zero-tillage, and minimum tillage.
Impact Ongoing winter-cover crop trials of effects on mycorrhization. This collaboration has led to a number of impact and outreach activities listed elsewhere. In particular Dr Alastair Leake, Head of Policy and Development at the Allerton Project was invited to meet with the Minister Michael Gove in early 2018 to discuss options for farm payments in future, and Dr Leake included in his presentation the case for paying subsidies to farmers to grow leys in arable rotations to improve soil quality. The findings from our research provided additional support for this policy, and the policy is consistent with goals of the 25 year environment plan which include comments on the potential benefits of leys.
Start Year 2015
 
Description RAGT Seeds 
Organisation RAGT Seeds
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution We are studying mycorrhization in relation to varietal variation in wheat- and its consequences for soil biology and soil chemistry and fuinctioning.
Collaborator Contribution RAGT Seeds are providing the wheat seeds used in our trials and are involved in seed breeding and guiding selection of lines to be taken forward in the work. The initial phase of trials for selecting wheat lines involved the company setting up 800 trial plots in Eastern England on organic and conventionally managed fields from which we have selected 6 wheat lines to focus on.
Impact None yet the project is still in early stages
Start Year 2011
 
Description ASDA Pathfinder Farmers Group Field Visit- Invitation to meet and discuss soil management and soil biology at Thriplow Farms Cambridgeshire (David Walston) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Guest of the Asda Pathfinder Farmer's Group. 20th October 2016. Invitation to visit Thriplow Farms (David Walston) to discuss sustainable soil management in arable farming- including no-tillage, leys, organic matter earthworms and mycorrhiza. This invitation was a follow-up to their visit to Sheffield earlier in the year at which I gave a presentation on MycoRhizaSiol and SoilBioHedge projects, our work on cover-crops and mycorrhiza with Kelloggs. The farm visit was a great chance for direct knowledge exchange with farmers- both learning from them and their experiences with no-tillage arable farming and use of leys, as well as us being able to explain how some of their actions are enhancing soil quality by visual assessments and key indicators such as earthworms and soil crumb structure. Follow up to this includes requests for us to undertake some soil analyses to help confirm how no-tillage is improving soil functions, and contacts made on this day are providing farms which we will sample as part of SoilBioHedge landscape-scale studies. This meeting and engagement directly with farmers and land managers is part of our formal commitment to knowledge exchange from this project (integral to our pathways to impact) and the relationships and contacts we are building in the farming and agricultural advisory sector is vital for developing an effective pipeline for the knowledge transfer once our major research findings and applications such as user-tools are available.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Annual steering group meeting for SoilBioHedge and MycoRhizaSoil 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact SoilBioHedge and MycoRhizaSoil progress review presentations at Hazelwood Castle Tadcaster, together with coordinating visit to field experiments at Leeds University Farm. (Annual steering group meeting of the two White Rose consortium projects I lead). About 50 delegates including representatives from the Soil Security Programme, our industry partners and collaborators both on the farm and academic partners and allied PhD students. The field visit included demonstrations of gas-flux measurements as well as visual assessments of soil quality under newly sown leys versus conventional continuous cultivation fort 40 years, and soil quality variation from hedgerows into fields.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Attendance at NERC Soil Security Programme KE meeting London February 22 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Participation in a full day KE workshop in London run by the Soil Security Programme to discuss pathways to impact from the research. The main outcome was the distribution of a useful infographic summarizing the significance of soil science for the delivery of the UN Development Goals- published in 2016.
The main personal benefit from the meeting was increased awareness the the extent to which the devolved administrations of Wales and Scotland have better developed strategies for dealing with soil security and may have documentation and procedures that could for useful role-models in England, where soil health is generally a low priority politically and in policy terms.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Business In The Community Technical Workshop How to solve the sustainable food puzzle. Lecture on restoring soil health in arable farming and workshop on soil health metrics 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Full day workshop considering different aspects of sustainable food production. My talk on restoring soil health in UK arable farming set the scene for a workshop focused on identifying key metrics for soil health. About 50 people attended the meeting, at least a third of these were interested in soil health. The meeting comprise a mixed group of participants from academia, industry ,agri-business, farmers, ADAS and the National Farmers Union etc. The meeting has been followed up by a second workshop at which a number of the participants in this workshop returned to the second, affirming their interest in our research and outreach activity and potential interest in collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Cereals 2016 Oral presentation and formal written report to Kelloggs Origins Cover Crop Farmer group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Oral presentation "Mycorrhizas in winter cover crops" and formal written report (with graphics and pictures) to Kelloggs Origins Cover Crop Farmer group at Cereals event 16 June in Cambridgeshire in collaboration with NIAB (Dr Ron Stobart) This was providing group and personalized feed-back to the participating farmers who had trialed different winter cover-crop systems in 2015-16, and from which I coordinated sampling of both the cover crop and follow-on crops for assessment of mycorrhiza. Whilst this work was not directly funded by SoilBioHedge several of the participating farmers in these trials have provided land for us to sample in SoilBioHedge and helped to identify other suitable farmers to include in our network of farms under different management.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Co-author of a report to Defra Environmental Land Manangement team: Agricultural Land Management for Public Goods Delivery: iCASP Evidence Review on Soil Health. Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP) Report. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Co-author of a report to Defra Environmental Land Manangement team:
Chapman, P.J., Eze, S., de Bell, S., Barlow-Duncan, F., Firbank, L., Helgason, T., Holden, J., Leake, J.R, Kay, P., Brown, C.D., White, P.C.L., Little, R., Reed, M., Ziv, G. (2018) Agricultural Land Management for Public Goods Delivery: iCASP Evidence Review on Soil Health. Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP) Report. iCASP is funded under NERC Grant: NE/P011160/1
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://icasp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2018/11/Public-Goods-Report-Final.pdf
 
Description Evidence submitted to the UK Parliamentary Inquiry into soil health 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Two written submissions were made by Jonathan Leake as lead author, to the Parliamentary Inquiry into UK Soil health, on behalf of the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, at the University of Sheffield, and on behalf of the White Rose Sustainable Agriculture Consortium of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. Both submissions were published on the website of the inquiry and one of the submissions was referenced in the final report of the committee.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description GWCT / LEAF/ NFU Technical Soils day for farmers and professional advisers 27th March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact GWCT / LEAF/ NFU Technical Soils day for farmers and professional advisers - Cover Crops: The growing research into their management and impacts. The Allerton Project, Loddington, Leicestershire LE7 9XE 27th March 2017. invited talk: Mycorrhizal fungi - what can they deliver? My talk resulted in several requests for collaborative research and the feedback from the event indicated that the lecture on mycorrhiza had stimulated a lot of interest and was a subject that many farmers want to know more about. The National Farmer's Union featured the day and mention my presentation on their new website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.nfuonline.com/news/latest-news/blog-nfu-gwct-and-leaf-talk-cover-crops-at-soils/
 
Description Indigro Academy Day for Farmers and Advisors - lecture/workshop on soil sustainability and soil health 30th November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The event was a training day for farmers and advisors with a focus on soil health and water pollution issues. My presentation sparked some discussion and questions and it was useful for knowledge exchange- both learning from constraints on farmers arising from weeds like blackgrass but also opportunities to manage soils more sustainably.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Integrated Farming Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was the lead speaker at the workshop with farmers, agricultural advisors and estate managers to discuss barriers and opportunities in the development of integrated farming systems including reintroducing livestock into arable rotations to improve agricultural sustainability. The meeting was funded by the UKRI seeding Award ISCF-TFP-SA-Sheffield. The work I presented drew mainly on the results from the SoilBioHedge and MycoRhizaSoil projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited Participation in the AHDB NIAB workshop on integrating livestock into arable systems 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Active participation in this workshop- sharing knowledge. Several new contacts sent follow up messages to me. I briefly outlined the goals of the recently funded BBSRC SARIC project I lead on Restoring soil quality through re-integration of leys and sheep into arable rotations, which builds on the work we have done in MycoRhizaSoil and SoilBioHedge projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited Seminar at The University of Nottingham. Rhizosphere Seminar Series. Evolution of plants and their mycorrhizospheres: from liverworts to forests, pedogenesis to global biogeochemical cycles 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presented a talk that summarized our work on plant and mycorrhiza in relation to mineral weathering and global biogeochemistry, concluding with considerations of soil security and the threats to global soils. Raised awareness of soil insecurity and the need for more sustainable soil management in agriculture to deliver better soil quality and soil security. The presentation opened opportunities to discuss the limited teaching of soil science in undergraduate degree programmes and potential opportunities for research collaborations with staff at the University of Nottingham
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited Speaker at Kellogg's Origins Farmers Group Meeting, at Rothampstead Research November 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Formal report on the cover crop trials work that we have conducted in collaboration with Kelloggs Origins Group farmers, testing the extent of mycorrhization of single and mixed species cover-crops in winter, together with the effects of the cover crops on the mycorrhization in the follow-on spring crops. The talk "Cover crops, leys and rotations for building mycorrhiza and soil quality". also included key findings from the work we have been conducting on effects of leys on soil quality in the research projects MycoRhizaSoil and SoilBiohedge. Following this meeting a further meeting was arranged with Dr Ron Stobart of NIAB to continue our collaborations on these biological aspects of cover-cropping and crop rotations/ tillage interactions affecting soil quality.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited guest speaker at Frontier Agriculture and Kings Seeds Annual technical 2 day conference "The role of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil" Nottingham, November 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited plenary lecture to provide up to date technical advice and scientific evidence of the effects of mycorrhizas on crops, and how this is influenced by tillage, land management and crop rotations. The presentation drew on our results from MycoRhizaSoil and SoilBioHedge projects both in terms of effects of leys on mycorrhizal activities, soil quality and on subsequent crop yields, and the role of mycorrhizal inoculum in suppressing shoot pathogens. Our research into mycorrhizas in crops and expertise i this is featured in the 2018 Kings Seeds Technical manual (https://issuu.com/frontieragriculture/docs/kings_catalogue_2018)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://issuu.com/frontieragriculture/docs/kings_catalogue_2018
 
Description Invited lecture to Kings Frontier Agriculture Team Meeting, Lincoln and co-development of R & D opportunities 7th November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presented results from our recent research on leys and cover crops to a team meeting of Kings Seeds and Frontier Agriculture and to discussions on developing some joint research activities. Subsequent to the meeting I have been invited to speak later this year at the national; meeting of Frontier Agriculture and they have agreed to be a project partner on a BBSRC SARIC research application (currently in review), .
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited opening plenary at the Knowledge Transfer Network organized Managing & Improving Soil Health Workshop, Sheffield March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Lecture entitled: Priorities for restoring soil health in arable farming. This showcased the work we are doing in SoilBioHedge and MycoRhizaSoil projects under the auspices of the NERC/ BBSRC Soil Security Programme and SARISA and how our work is informing management decisions for sustainable soil management- particularly through the use of leys, minimizing tillage and rebuilding earthworm and mycorrhizal functioning to restore soil structure and functions in arable land. The presentation highlighted the global and UK threats to soil health and some of the ways different management could be applied to reduce these threats and increase resilience. The audience comprised farmers, advisors Agrii, ADAS, and centrally funded organizations (Environment Agency, CEH) as well as small and medium sized agri-business.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Leeds University Farm User Group Meeting 2nd August 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Leeds University Farm User Group Meeting, Hazelwood Castle, 2nd August 2016. Presentation on Current and future plans with MycoRhizaSoil and SoilBioHedge. Building dialogue with the contractors and sub-contractors at Leeds University Farm, the management team and scoping future research plans and follow-up research after the current funding ends.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Meeting with Dr Jon Martlew Fiscal and Strategy Advisor Strategy & Improvement Unit Defa. 31st Jan 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Dr Jon Martlew of Defra requested a meeting to see our SoilBioHedge project in the field, having been advised by a National Farmers Union regional officer of the significance of the work in relation to farming policy and alignment with the goals set out in the recently published 25 year environment plan. I met with Jon at Lees University Farm, adjacent to our experiments , and gave him an illustrated talk showing him key results arising from the effects of our leys on soil properties and we then walked out onto one of the ley strips and dug soil to compare to the adjacent arable field. The visible results were compelling- with large numbers of pink earthworms and a lovely crumb structure in the ley and the adjacent arable soil was very compacted and supported a few greenish coloured small earthworms and lacked the same rooting density of they ley. After the meeting Dr Martlew contacted me to request using one of the slides from my presentation in internal defra meetings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Meetings with the Crown Estate 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Crown Estate Away Day. Invited talk: Challenges to assessing and maintaining soil health in the context of short-term tenancies. 12th October 2016. Halifax Hall Sheffield. This presentation was followed up by the Crown Estate with further meetings to discuss research needs with respect to assessing and maintaining soil health in the context of short-term tenancies, and a series of follow-up activities have taken place. The invited talk integrated the early results from MycoRhizaSoil and SoilBioHedge research projects and the associated work with Kelloggs on cover-cropping and mycorrhizas to consider how crop rotations and soil management such as different intensities of tillage can impact soil quality and its legacy effects in the context of short-term tenancies, and the problems of loss of soil organic matter from arable soils under continuous cultivation, again demonstrated by our research. These findings and our work developing measures of soil quality such as bioassays and hedge-to-field soil quality benchmarking are of interest to the Crown Estate in the context on maintaining long-term capital values of the estate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description MycoRhizaSoil: Incorporation of ley rotations has the potential to reverse arable soil degradation (Poster presentation by Dr Steffi Tille) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Poster presentation at annual Soil Security Programme meeting with researchers and stakeholders.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation at Cereals 2015, Lincolnshire 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Cereals Event. Informal presentation to Kellogg's Origins farmer group of outline plans and scope for a collaborative project on effects of mycorrhiza-compatible and non-mycorrhizal winter cover crops on spring-sown crops in collaboration with NIAB.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Presentation to Agricure 30th November 2016, Sheffield. Invited speaker: Rebuilding the foundations of agriculture: soil health. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presentation to Agricure visiting the University of Sheffield to explore opportunities for collaboration. I gave a talk entitled: Rebuilding the foundations of agriculture: soil health. This focused on the ongoing research in SoilBioHedge and MycoRhizaSoil to address ways of achieving sustainable improvements to soil quality in UK arable farming practice by crop genotype selection, sympathetic management that promotes beneficial microorganisms such as mycorrhiza and the use of grass-clover leys to boost soil structure, fertility and build mycorrhiza inoculum in situ. Although there are no immediate workstreams following from this Knowledge Transfer activity, we anticipate potential future collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to representatives of Agrii: Underground networks of power and influence: Managing the potential benefits of mycorrhiza for soil and crop health. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A series of presentations to different Agrii consultants and board members resulting from an initial visit of a delegation from Agrii to the University of Sheffield on 15th March 2016 at which research relevant to their agribusiness was presented including a talk which i gave: Underground networks of power and influence: Managing the potential benefits of mycorrhiza for soil and crop health. A second group came to hear our presentations again on 26th April, and Agrii board members came again in June at which I gave an updated version of the presentation for the third time. Our interactions with Agrii have led to collaborations in soil quality and soil health assessments,. using tools we are developing in SiiolBioHedge and MycorrhizaSoil.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Provided expert advice as science review panel member to a formal report to Defra from the Sustainable Soils Alliance with respect to national soil health assessment and monitoring 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Provided expert advice as science review panel member to a formal report to Defra from the Sustainable Soils Alliance with respect to national soil health assessment and monitoring.
It is too early to evaluate the outcome of this activity. The Sustainable Soils Alliance is hosting another meeting at parliament in March 2019 where there will be further lobbying to try to ensure that soil is given a higher priority in the implementation of national monitoring to meet the targets of the 25 year environment plan.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Sainsbury's Scholarships 2015, Soil Health Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Sainsbury's Scholarships 2015, Soil Health Workshop, Pocklington, York. Invited guest speaker "Underground networks of power and influence: The potential benefits of mycorrhiza for soil and crop health". Presentation to farmers, industry and agricultural sector professionals.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Scientific Advisor to the Sustainable Soils Alliance providing expert reviewing of policy documents 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Provided technical advice, data evidence and editing of documents as a member of the scientific steering group for the Sustainable Soils Alliance, and attended the parliamentary launch of the SSA at the Houses of Parliament. This group has substantially increased the importance of soils in national policy and the information developed by the alliance may have helped influence the policy direction of the 25 year environment plan. Certainly the Minister, Michael Gove, who attended the meeting has shown a strong commitment to soil protection and we have subsequently provided information to him on the potential advantages of subsidizing farmers to include leys in rotations via our project partner Dr Alastair Leake who met with Mr Gove.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Soil Biology and Soil Health Technical Workshop Research and Knowledge Exchange NIAB innovation Farm 31st October 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Provided a short lecture on soil health in this workshop attended by about 50 professionals, and participated in discussion s on soil health metrics. Provided follow-up ideas to the organizer and have been engaged subsequently in a consultative exercise in relation to integrating soil measurements on farms with farm payments post Brexit for the development of soil monitoring policy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Soil Security Programme Annual Meeting - Invited plenary lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited Keynote Speaker: Soil Security Annual Meeting, Reading, 6th September. Restoring Paradise Lost: Sustainable soil management for sustainable crop production.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Soil Security Programme Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition stand "Soil: Our Buried Treasure" 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Soil Security stand had some hands-on demonstrations and I engaged members of the public in discussions on the importance of soil and how it functions- drawing directly on examples from our recent agricultural systems research. I Attended 3 half days and an evening Soiree for fellows of the Royal Society and distinguished guests and members of the press.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Soil Security Programme Soil Health Workshop 13-14 April 2016 University of Reading 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Participation in this workshop - played a role in identifying and prioritizing the key indicators of soil health. For me the main outcome of the workshop was increased motivation to feed directly into the Government Inquiry into Soil Health as the research we have been doing has clarified for me the key priorities and problems that need to be addressed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Soil and water 2018 Celebrating 25 years of research into soils, water and the environment GWCT Soils Day 14 Feb 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited participant at the GWCT Soils Day celebrating 25 years of research at the Allerton Project (a project partner on SoilBioHedge). I ran an in-field demonstration of soil quality variation in relation to arable soil management and contrasted the soil properties under hedges and small copses with the long-term cultivated soils. I was an invited member of the expert panel for the formal question and answer session at the end of the two day meeting. Many of the participants were struck by the soil quality under hedges and our approach developed in SoilBioHedge to use hedgerow soils as soil quality benchmarks within fields to compare effects of arable farming on different soil types between fields.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.nfuonline.com/cross-sector/environment/soil/blog-gwcts-25-year-celebration-of-research-i...
 
Description Soil health stand at the Great Yorkshire Show 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Great Yorkshire Show on 11-13 July 2017. We had a stand to showcase our research and give and hands-on soil outreach activities. Our research project SoilBioHedge: Harnessing hedgerow biodiversity using leys to restore arable soil quality and increase resilience to climatic extremes had a large poster banner and leaflets summarizing the project were distributed. A bioassay with wheat grown in soil from hedgerows out into fields and in leys was used to demonstrate soil quality improvement by leys compared to the soil quality loss by arable cropping, using soil from our complementary research project MycoRhizaSoil. We have been invited by the Great Yorkshire Show to run a similar stand this year due to its popularity and interest generated.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Soil influences the extent of mycorrhiza colonization and diversity in wheat roots. Poster presentation by Dr Steffi Tille 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Poster presentation at Soil Security annual meeting for researchers and stakeholders
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Soil science at The Great Yorkshire Show, Harrogate 10th - 12th July 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Researchers from the SoilBioHedge and MycoRhizasSoil project presented research outcomes at the Great Yorkshire show by organizing and presenting a research stand. The stand was part of the NFU's meet the farmer exhibition which aimed to showcase the science behind production of some of the UK's most important crops alongside recent agricultural research. Research findings from the SoilBioHedge Project were presented to the general public using a combination of large banners, leaflets and postcard sized handouts. A number of display items were also presented including blocks of soil excavated from the field showing differences in arable and ley soils, a wormery to demonstrate importance of earthworms for influencing soil structure and mixing soils and large rhizotrons which allowed the structural differences of a range of plant root systems (including grass and clover) to be visualised. Microscopes with slides showing a range of soil biodiversity (including arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, clover root nodules and earthworms) were setup to allow the public to explore the range of soil microbiota important for influencing soil health. Over 130,000 people attended the show over the 3 days the event was held, and the stand attracted interest from farmers, agricultural advisers and the general public- an estimated over 80-100 people directly engaged with our stand.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description UK Agriculture Resilience Workshop. Scunthorpe 13 Feb 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A follow on meeting from the Business in the Community workshop in October 2017 involving a 1 day workshop focused around issues of soil sustainability and training of farmers and students of agriculture. I gave the plenary lecture at the start of the day and made contributions to the workshop. A report has been prepared summarizing the key priority themes that have emerged from our discussions and further meetings are being planned to start to draw up funding bids involving research co-designed with stakeholders.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description University of Sheffield-DEFRA Environmental Land Management Evidence & Research Mapping for Policy Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A one day workshop event with representatives from Defra Land Management teams, Natural England and Forest Research providing an up to date overview of our key research findings relevant to the development of new farm payment systems for the delivery of environmental goods and services. I gave a presentation on Soil Practice & Outcomes: Soil Quality and was a contributor to research review presented by Prof Chapman on Agricultural Land Management for Public Goods Delivery: iCASP Evidence Review on Soil Health.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Waitrose Science Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation on SoilBioHedge project and soil security in a UK arable farming context for professional growers and those involved in the Waitrose food supply chain.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description White Rose Brussels meeting Rethinking sustainable food systems. Tuesday 20th June 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk presented in Brussels run by the White Rose Universities to showcase our interests in sustainable food production systems. The meeting was addressed by the EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan, with a mixed audience of policymakers, practitioners, rural land use organizations and members of the public. I presented a talk on 'Soil degradation by intensive UK agriculture and how to reverse it' and there was some follow-up interest from participants at the meeting, including requests to use some of the illustrations / slides in my talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Written Submission to AHDB Soil Biology and Soil Health Partnership workshop, 2nd March 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Contributed a written submission to the policy development led by AHDB in relation to soil testing of farmland and soil quality monitoring in relation to the aspirational goals of the UK government 25 year environment plan.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018