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Our World View: World Soil Day

Posted 5 December 2013

Professor Shane Ward

Professor Shane Ward

A monthly comment from a member of staff at Harper Adams University

Professor Shane Ward, Director of the Soil and Water Management Centre at Harper Adams University.

Soil is agriculture’s fundamental resource and when combined with the effects of water – rainfall or drought, its efficient management is essential for the prosperity of humankind.

Unfortunately, soils-related education and research have been somewhat neglected during the past few decades, resulting in a decreased awareness of the impacts of poor soil management on the agri-food industry and broader environment.

The advent of large agricultural mechanisation systems, combined with extreme rainfall events in recent years, have made agricultural soils more vulnerable to adverse impacts such as compaction, erosion and downstream impacts on the catchment.

A particular issue of major concern to the public is the impact of agricultural systems on water catchments and public water supplies, arising from increasingly intensive production systems where mechanisation practices, fertiliser and chemicals use increase the load on the system.

Staff at the Harper Adams-based Soil and Water Management Centre (SWMC) specialise in themes spanning the full soil-water spectrum, and provide a knowledge transfer pathway bridging academia with the industry and downstream stakeholders, including the public. 

World Soil Day (December 5) gives opportunity to highlight the importance of soils in our lives, and in particular the need to increase our focus on the delivery of sustainable soil and water management systems.

The SWMC at Harper Adams University addresses the full spectrum of soil and water-related research, under five principal themes:
• Water in Agri-Food & Bio-resource Systems
• Vehicle-Soil Interaction
• Soil Chemistry & Bio-diversity
• Smart Systems including sensors and BIG DATA in agriculture
• Sustainable Agricultural Systems

Each of these themes has an on-going programme of research and education, and monitors opportunities for the development of collaborative research with other organisations.

In special recognition of the importance of soil to agriculture and humankind, the Centre is hosting a series of outreach events across the UK in January and February, 2014. These events are aimed at informing the farming community on a select number of soil-related topics, as well as opening up a broader network of stakeholders with a particular interest in soils and their sustainable management.

Details of the events will be launched shortly on: http://www.soilandwater.org.uk/events

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