SoilBioHedge: harnessing hedgerow soil biodiversity for restoration of arable soil quality and resilience to climatic extremes and land use changes

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

Abstract

Only 30% of Earth's surface is land, only 9% is cultivated, and there is little scope for future expansion. The supply of water and nutrients from soil to crops in approximately 7800 km3 of topsoil (to 0.5 m) currently sustains 7 billion humans. This soil resource is the essential foundation of arable farming on which plant production for food, fiber and biofuels, and ultimately the entire global economy depends. How we manage this vital, life sustaining, resource will determine the quality of life and Earth's carrying capacity for future generations.

SoilBioHedge addresses the central problem for soil security: continuous conventional arable cultivation depletes soil organic matter, degrades soil structure, reduces water drainage and water holding capacity, and increases the susceptibility of soil and crops to the impacts of climatic stress through decreased resilience to flood and drought conditions.

We will test our central hypothesis: grass-clover leys sown into arable fields and connected to hedgerows and unploughed grassy margins enable key ecosystem-engineers (earthworms and mycorrhizal fungi) to recolonize the fields, restoring and improving soil quality compared to leys unconnected to field margins.

We will determine for the first time the importance of connectivity from biodiversity refugia under hedgerows to arable fields via grass-clover leys in restoring functional biodiversity. We will quantify soil quality as functional benefits from soil-organism interactions: increases in soil organic matter, water-stable macroaggregates, water holding capacity, infiltration rates, drought and flood resilience, and resulting crop yields. We will quantify the operational temporal and spatial scales for ecosystem engineers (grass-clover roots, AM fungi, and earthworms) and soil functions to synergistically develop with land use and management change. We will transform mechanistic understanding of soil structure dynamics by combined metabolomics and metagenomic analyses tracking soil aggregate formation over 3 growing seasons.

Our research design includes three nested scales of observation.
1) Hedge-to-Field Experiments at Leeds U. farm to quantify spatial/temporal changes in soil functions and biodiversity, arising from arable-to-ley conversion strips that are disconnected or connected to the field margin, and across a whole field converted to arable in 2012, and ley-to-arable conversion using conventional vs. minimal tillage strips and a field that converted to ley in 2009. Monolith mesocosm studies will use turf blocks removed from the experimental plots, treated with herbicide and direct drilled with wheat. We will compare crop yields between the field and monoliths maintained at near-ambient conditions, under simulated drought and excess rainfall causing flooding. The results will quantify soil quality and the resilience of the crop and soil organisms and functions to these stresses.
2) Landscape-Scale Hedge-to-Field Transects will quantify soil functional changes on long-term arable fields and pairs of arable fields converted to ley over 2 differing time scales. We will utilize our network of >100 farms that provide a range of soil types, and management (conventional, organic, and minimal tillage).
3) Field-to-Landscape Scale mathematical modelling to establish an integrative and predictive spatiotemporal model of soil quality change at field-to-landscape-scale, including the role of dispersal of hedgerow and field margin biodiversity into arable land resulting from land use and management change involving leys. We will integrate mechanistic understanding of soil aggregation and carbon accumulation through the synergistic actions of roots, AM, and earthworms from our experiments and landscape-scale transect observations with existing Countryside Survey data and national digital soil map, to deliver a step-change in understanding for sustainable soil management policy and practice.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit and how?
Results from SoilBioHedge, and their practical applications in sustainable soil management by UK and international farmers have potential to deliver far-reaching benefits across a wide range of sectors, from individuals and organizations, to societal benefits from long-term potential gains in soil and food security.
Pre- and post-farmgate stakeholders and policymakers. The core outcomes of the project will directly influence a) Farmers, farm managers: benefit through understanding benefits of leys and the spatiotemporal scales over which they restore soil quality under different management practices and soil types, b) Statutory agencies involved in water and soil conservation (e.g. Natural England, Environment Agency), c) Utility companies involved in water supply, nitrate pollution and management of stormwater and associated sediment discharges, d) households in flood-risk areas where the risks have been increased by loss of arable soil water infiltration and storage capacity, e) Game and Wildlife Conservation, (f) Government policy makers (DEFRA) and via the SoilTrEC project network EC and member state agencies tasked with policy innovation for EU soil security, g) The wider UK and international public via the SCOPE Soil Carbon project network including dissemination activities of the UN Environment Programme, European Soil Bureau web portal, and UN FAO (via the Global Soils Partnership) - all specifically aimed at improved soil and food security and environmental sustainability, consistent with the aims and vision of the global food security (GFS) programme

We will employ 4 major mechanisms of communication and engagement:
1. National and international conference presentations, including: International Conference on Mycorrhiza, British Soil Science Society, British Ecological Society, International Earthworm Ecology Symposium, The European and American Geophysical Union, US and European Goldschmidt Conferences.
2. Publications in high impact and / or open access peer reviewed journals. We plan to submit at least 6 major journal articles over the course of the project. These publications will reach academic audiences, and via press releases and open access publication enable wide impact.
3. Knowledge and information transfer to national databases on earthworms, AM fungi and tipulid biodiversity and distributions.
4. Stakeholder and Outreach Events. We will have 4 major stakeholder engagement activities: a) Our steering group stakeholders (see letters of support) will meet with us annually (see Workflow Plan and Project Management document) for all three years of the project, guiding our strategies for effective engagement with the stakeholder groups they represent. b) We will hold a 3-day public engagement event "Hedge-to-Field: What's hiding under your hedge and why is it important for our soil?" at the Great Yorkshire Show 2017 which typically has >130,000 visitors over 3 days). c) Host a 1 day outreach/engagement meeting in the project's final year to demonstrate research outcomes and communicate findings to farmers and key 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. d) Contribute to a meeting with a wider stakeholder group with interests in wheat breeding and sustainable cultivation methods, hosted at the Allerton Project Visitor's Center and drawing on their extensive network of contacts (see Dr AR Leake letter of support).

Dissemination materials for the above series of events will be distilled into 2-page Fact Sheets/Policy briefs that summarize key findings and provide advice for farmers and soil management practitioners and the agritech commercial supply chain, and provide key science evidence to support policy innovation for government agencies and NGOs working at the science-policy interface.
 
Description Two key early findings from the research- we have found substantial soil drying associated with hedgerows - which has potentially important implications for their roles as buffer-zones at field margins reducing runoff. Secondly, evidence of soil quality improvement under leys compared to wheat stubble fields were sen within the first 18 months of the project, with benefits from the leys extending considerable distances into fields from the margins. We are now (in the second year) seeing a major recovery in earthworm populations in the leys towards the abundance values seen in adjacent permanent grassland fields. The water holding capacity and crumb structure of the soil in the leys is remarkably improved in parallel with the improvement in earthworm numbers, and the soil is more freely draining and the soil crumbs stronger when wetted than in the adjacent long-term arable fields.
Exploitation Route The use of ley strips to improve soil quality and restore key depleted components of soil biodiversity may be a useful way of improving soil health whilst minimizing the area of land required to be taken out of production. The importance of leys in rotations in UK arable farming has risen to increasing importance with the publication of the 25 year environment plan highlighting these as potential tools for improving soil health, and increasing interest by arable farmers reintroducing livestock into arable rotations. Our findings have the potential both to influence national policy on farm payments (by demonstrating the environmental benefits of leys and recognizing that these may be less economically attractive than continuous cropping) and also guide farmers into possible novel ways of using leys in combination with reduced or zero tillage to boost soil quality restoration in long-term arable land.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

 
Description Early results of our work have been presented to Kelloggs Origins group of Farmers, to Sainsbury's Scholars programme in 2015, Waitrose Quality and Technical Science Event day in Feb 2016. This has communicated the impacts of arable farming on soil physical, chemical and biological properties. Arising from these presentations has been an ongoing collaboration with Kelloggs Origins group farmers experimenting with winter-cover crops to improve soil quality in collaboration with NIAB, with 6 farms involved in these trials in 2015-16. This has enabled us to build a highly effective impact pathway to farmers and land managers joint 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 research has also fed into our written evidence submitted to the Government Inquiry into soil health, particularly our concerns about the loss of soil organic matter and soil compaction in arable land, and our concerns about the lack of effective monitoring and lack of protection for UK arable soils. In 2018-19 our research has contributed to formal submissions to DEFRA in their consultations on headline indicators to be used in the implementation of the 25 year environment plan. The research has been presented by invitation to the annual conference of Frontier Agriculture staff in November 2018, and at several workshops including one hosted by the Game And Wildlife Conservation Trust in February 2019 and funded by a UKRI award ISCF-TFP-SA-Sheffield. Our research findings demonstrating the effectiveness of leys in soil quality restoration, and the biological functional improvements in soil structure, mycorrhization, earthworm populations and soil water storage capacity have far-reaching implications in UK arable farming and downstream consequences such as flood risk management. The Involvement of Jonathan Leake in the recently funded £4.6M NERC Yorkshire iCASP consortium as the Academic Lead for Sustainable Agriculture & Communications, provides a clear pathway for him to assist delivering impacts of the larger scale benefits from field-to-landscape-to large catchment scales. In 2017-18 findings from our research have been presented to a number of farmers, farmer advisory groups and the National Farmer's Union. These include an invited presentation to Kings Frontier Agriculture Team Meeting 7th November 2017; Indigro Academy Day for farmers and advisors 30th November 2017; Business in the Community Technical Workshop Finding a metric for soil health.3rd October 2017; Soil Biology and Soil Health Technical Workshop Research and Knowledge Exchange NIAB innovation Farm 31st October 2017; UK Agriculture Resilience Workshop 13th Feb 2018; Soil and water 2018 Celebrating 25 years of research into soils, water and the environment GWCT Soils Day 14 Feb 2018; I met Dr Jon Martlew from Defra's Fiscal and Strategy Advisor Strategy & Improvement Unit on 31st Jan 2018 (who was advised by an NFU employee to visit our experiments and learn from our work focused on restoring soil health). We showed him the effects of leys on soil quality in a field visit- and discussed its wider landscape catchment-scale relevance in the NERC iCASP project. Dr Martlew is using some of the photos from our studies in his presentations within Defra. The 25 year Environment plan specifically highlights the importance of leys and there is increasing interest from farmers and farming advisors in relation to soil quality and crop rotations- which has led to the steep increase in invitations we are receiving to speak to farmers and advisors. Via our project partner Dr Alastair Leake of GWCT, who was invited to meet the minister Michael Gove and presented to him a set of priority targets for farm payments and land management for soil quality improvement, we have further championed the use of leys, based on the data we are obtaining from SoilBioHedge.
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 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 Harnessing fundamental biological and ecosystem science to create more resilient and sustainable farming systems Presentation by Dr Despina Berdeni 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation to a meeting of other early career soil science researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
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 Operation Earth Outreach Natural History Museum, London, 29th May 2018. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This event was organized by the Soil Security Programme with the aim of communicating the importance of soils for providing a range of ecosystem services. The event was predominantly attended by families with primary and secondary aged children. Researchers from the SoilBiohedge team attended the event to help run activities to communicate messages about the structure, biology and chemistry of soils. Part of this event was also an opportunity for children to talk to researchers about working in science research and therefore some of the key aims and research outcomes of the SoilBioHedge project were communicated to the general public. It was estimated that over 300 children actively engaged with the soils stand at this event.
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 Annual Meeting - SoilBioHedge Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Soil Security Annual Meeting, Reading, 7th September. SoilBioHedge Harnessing hedgerow soil biodiversity for restoration of arable soil quality and resilience to climatic extremes and land use changes. Update on progress with the project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Soil Security Programme Annual meeting 5-6th September 2018. SoilBioHedge summary findings presented in a poster by Dr Despina Berdeni 
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 A research poster summarizing the overall results of the SoilBioHedge project was presented at the Annual Soil Security Programme meeting. The meeting was attended by over 30 researchers involved in Soil Security Programme funded research projects together with invited guests from Government Departments and agencies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
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 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
 
Description Written submission to Defra Consultation on headline indicators for delivery of the 25 year Environment Plan from Jonathan Leake 
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 In response to the Defra consultation on the 25 year Environment plan in January 2019 I submitted a written report drawing attention to deficiencies in the structure, definitions and order of the draft headline indicators, and provided scientific advice on how these could be improved . My primary concern was that soil health was not properly prioritized and was incorrectly presented only under the headline "production and harvesting of natural resources", which fails to reflect its role in underpinning and delivering a wide range of essential public goods and services. Soil does far more than support farm production, and whilst it is important that our cropland soils are more sustainably managed in future, it is also critical that all of our soils are properly protected and their contributions to environmental goods and services maintained and enhanced not only in the context of production and harvesting.
We await the next draft of the Defra proposals to see how they respond.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019