Biodiversity is critical to sustainable farming. Evidence from long-term field experiments (50 – 170 years) suggest that the central relationship between microbes, organic carbon and soil structure determines soil system performance. Detailed work at Rothamsted led by Prof. Andrew Neal is demonstrating the strong relationship between organic carbon, structure and the hydrodynamic behaviour of soil. Among other sources, farmyard manure plays an important role in managing soil systems. The experiments also demonstrate significantly higher levels of organic matter/carbon under grass – with the associated benefits of increased soil porosity and hydraulic conductivity.
Dr Felicity Crotty is researching the implications of land use on the soil food web for its biodiversity and its relationship to soil health in both arable and livestock systems. Her current research involves the monitoring of earthworms as the emblem of soil health and seeking to identify linkages between healthy soil and healthy food.
Since time immemorial, farmers have recognised the vital role that grazed pasture plays in rebuilding the health and fertility of the soil following the disruption caused by cultivation. As researchers continue to understand and explain why, Prof Neal and Dr Crotty will share their recent findings.
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