Improving soil health in apple and pear orchards

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Lancaster Environment Centre

Abstract

Soil health is a key concern in agricultural systems. A healthy soil can increase yields, improve fruit quality, reduce the need for irrigation, and help protect the wider environment. In a changing climate making soils resistant and resilient to climate change, especially drought, is an important aspect of soil health. There is growing interest in the development of practices to improve soil health. Despite industry-wide interest in soil health, the topic has received relatively little research attention in fruit orchards. There are only a small number of studies that have considered the impacts of orchard management on aspects of soil health, and fewer studies that consider multiple aspects of soil health. This project will fill this knowledge gap and address the overarching aim to offer practical advice to growers to improve soil health and consequentially irrigation requirements for top fruit in the UK. By conducting surveys and experiments this project will answer the following research questions:
1. How do management, crop variety, and soil type impact upon soil health (soil carbon, biodiversity, physico-chemical properties and function)?
2. Can the use of wildflower strips, planted to encourage pollinators, also provide benefits for soil health?
3. How does species identity within wildflower strips influence soil health and can planting specific mixtures provide additional benefits?
4. What is the resistance / resilience of orchard soils to drought and have is this influenced by management, crop variety and soil type?
A key research outcome will be to work in partnership with growers to offer advice on best practice that maintains and improves soil health.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/T50886X/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023
2276373 Studentship BB/T50886X/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Max Davis