How about this for soil building

Simon C

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Essex Coast
Recently came across this photo I took in the winter when I had dug a hole to show a group of visitors.

Soil Profile.jpg


Sorry nothing to show the scale, but it is about two feet deep. I was amazed to see that I have grown about six inches of top soil in 12 years of no-till, but also you can see dark organic matter forming in clumps further down the profile. This means that the worms and roots are working to build stable organic matter much deeper than I had imagined, and also the air is getting down there, exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide to allow it all to breathe.

This is the only photo I can find of what it used to be like. Twenty or thirty years of deeper and deeper cultivations and there was no top soil left, the clay came right up to the surface.
Beans 2012 005.jpg


When no-tillers talk about how they are increasing organic matter, they are often accused of just concentrating it in the very top couple of inches so I thought it would be interesting to test this field at different levels. I took samples from lots of different places across the field and then mixed together soil from the top 4 inches, then from 4 to 8 inches, and then from below 8 inches.
Top 4 inches- 6.5% OM
4 to 8 inches- 4.8% OM
Below 8 ins- 4.4% OM
There can be no other system that is capable of storing what must be huge amounts of carbon down two feet into the ground.

It also makes talking about OM percentages a bit of a farce because there is no mention of the actual bulk of soil it is representative of. We should talk about the weight of carbon throughout the whole soil profile.
 
When farmers in the 1940s ploughed up grassland that had been in place since the 19 century the did not realise what the consequence would be
Those fields with today’s notill system would be so much lower cost
Also when tractors got bigger the allowed farmers to plough deeper mixing the clay from a foot down with the organic matter in the top soil
The fields I have that were ploughed up in the 1970s and later are the best fields as they have more organic matter
 

Richard III

Member
NFFN Member
Location
CW5 Cheshire
Recently came across this photo I took in the winter when I had dug a hole to show a group of visitors.

View attachment 593790

Sorry nothing to show the scale, but it is about two feet deep. I was amazed to see that I have grown about six inches of top soil in 12 years of no-till, but also you can see dark organic matter forming in clumps further down the profile. This means that the worms and roots are working to build stable organic matter much deeper than I had imagined, and also the air is getting down there, exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide to allow it all to breathe.

This is the only photo I can find of what it used to be like. Twenty or thirty years of deeper and deeper cultivations and there was no top soil left, the clay came right up to the surface.
View attachment 593798

When no-tillers talk about how they are increasing organic matter, they are often accused of just concentrating it in the very top couple of inches so I thought it would be interesting to test this field at different levels. I took samples from lots of different places across the field and then mixed together soil from the top 4 inches, then from 4 to 8 inches, and then from below 8 inches.
Top 4 inches- 6.5% OM
4 to 8 inches- 4.8% OM
Below 8 ins- 4.4% OM
There can be no other system that is capable of storing what must be huge amounts of carbon down two feet into the ground.

It also makes talking about OM percentages a bit of a farce because there is no mention of the actual bulk of soil it is representative of. We should talk about the weight of carbon throughout the whole soil profile.

Brilliant pictures @Simon C , the Sustainable Soils Alliance should see those pictures, job sorted!

But then why do scientists so often struggle to measure increases in O.M. with No Till? This confuses me.

I have old marl pits here that are clay to the surface, they are now turning into soil as in your pictures. Elsewhere increases in soil O.M. are not visible to the eye, however the Lumbricus channels can be seen to be lined with O.M. and go down 4ft plus.

IMG_3812.JPG
 

Jim Bullock

Never Forgotten
Honorary Member
When farmers in the 1940s ploughed up grassland that had been in place since the 19 century the did not realise what the consequence would be
Those fields with today’s notill system would be so much lower cost
Also when tractors got bigger the allowed farmers to plough deeper mixing the clay from a foot down with the organic matter in the top soil
The fields I have that were ploughed up in the 1970s and later are the best fields as they have more organic matter
I think we just about got away with ploughing up until the mid sixties because we were only turning over the soil to the depth of 4 -6 inches as that is all the MF 35/65's could manage. It's when we got tractors over 100 hp with four wheel drive that we could really start to do some damage. Combine this with a power harrow and then we must have burnt up tons of SOM. One of the reasons we went down the direct drilling route was because it was becoming more and more difficult to create a seedbed.
 
It’s simple it’s the worms
If once you start helping them keeping them fed they double in number say every 2 years after 6 years there are 8 times as many then 12 years there are 32 times as many some soil biologist will have done some research on

If you intensively cultivate the top 6 inches the worms can never build up they are fighting armagedom every year
Shame I did not appreciate that 30 years ago the best yields came from high on fields just we ploughed in grass an hundreds of tonnes of muck then burnt the stubble on the following crop scratch till but no fresh food for the worms
Ban glyphosate and it gets harder to do notill
 
Location
Cambridge
It’s simple it’s the worms
If once you start helping them keeping them fed they double in number say every 2 years after 6 years there are 8 times as many then 12 years there are 32 times as many some soil biologist will have done some research on

If you intensively cultivate the top 6 inches the worms can never build up they are fighting armagedom every year
Shame I did not appreciate that 30 years ago the best yields came from high on fields just we ploughed in grass an hundreds of tonnes of muck then burnt the stubble on the following crop scratch till but no fresh food for the worms
Ban glyphosate and it gets harder to do notill
Need to check your maths...2^12 = 4,096, not 32. That might be a little optimistic!
 

tr250

Member
Location
Northants
I am sold on the idea of direct drilling and building worm population etc but we also have a lot of fields that have never been cultivated in modern times and while the soil is good it doesn't seem as good as it should it has a fair few worms but not that many more than good arable land that has been cultivated for years
 

Richard III

Member
NFFN Member
Location
CW5 Cheshire
I am sold on the idea of direct drilling and building worm population etc but we also have a lot of fields that have never been cultivated in modern times and while the soil is good it doesn't seem as good as it should it has a fair few worms but not that many more than good arable land that has been cultivated for years

The number and size of worms depends on how much you feed them, as well as not chopping them up with machinery. Returning crop residue and cover crops in No Till results in massive surface feeding worms, I can imagine that Mob Grazing does too. However closely cropped grass returns little to the surface, so doesn't boost worms as much. It's still way better for the soil than arable though.
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
I (sorry guys) was largely forced into cultivation recently to level up a paddock to put a pea crop in for a break.
We have a lot (a serious lot) of worms here, so I dug a post hole in the middle of my paddock, just to estimate my casualty rate :cry:
I was staggered to see just how deep the earthworms were diving, could still find worms at 18 inches but most were congregated at between 8 and 14 inches, only a few in the top 5.
So we must be doing something right.
There were over 100 in that hole alone, a regular spade spit test will bring up 30-50 depending on the grazing and time elapsed, so that showed me just why that is.
Wish I'd taken a picture but it was a bit dark :( lovely soil here without the decades of ploughing and damage.

Definitely a lot to lose (and I know it) but the argument of "mining my soil" goes out the window when you see the rate it is being built.
 

JD-Kid

Member
The number and size of worms depends on how much you feed them, as well as not chopping them up with machinery. Returning crop residue and cover crops in No Till results in massive surface feeding worms, I can imagine that Mob Grazing does too. However closely cropped grass returns little to the surface, so doesn't boost worms as much. It's still way better for the soil than arable though.
ummm seen chems do more dammage to worms than a plow will ever do
i would question if it's just the tillage lowering the worm numbers or the total removal of food lowering the numbers
 

tr250

Member
Location
Northants
The number and size of worms depends on how much you feed them, as well as not chopping them up with machinery. Returning crop residue and cover crops in No Till results in massive surface feeding worms, I can imagine that Mob Grazing does too. However closely cropped grass returns little to the surface, so doesn't boost worms as much. It's still way better for the soil than arable though.
I would say our grass grows a fair bit so we put plenty of stock on it which don't really take much away. But we tend to keep the grass short to keep it growing and fresh for stock
 

Richard III

Member
NFFN Member
Location
CW5 Cheshire
ummm seen chems do more dammage to worms than a plow will ever do
i would question if it's just the tillage lowering the worm numbers or the total removal of food lowering the numbers

Any chems in particular? It would be very interesting if you did know of any that are particularly damaging.

I share your concern about chemicals, everything I spray lands directly on their food! However in practice I have loads of worms here on my No Till arable, and judging by the size of their holes and casts, they reach a good age too.
 

Richard III

Member
NFFN Member
Location
CW5 Cheshire
I would say our grass grows a fair bit so we put plenty of stock on it which don't really take much away. But we tend to keep the grass short to keep it growing and fresh for stock

My guess would be that you should have plenty of Endogeic worms but be short of Anecic ones. However @The Ruminant and @martian will have practical experience of what different grazing practices deliver.
 
Turns out I'm really bad at managing a no till system and I need to make some money. I have muck and compost and rotational grass so all things considered the soil will be managed better than most. It's been a difficult decision but the right one for now.

Did you not put the mankini on under the boilersuit before you started drilling? Its the only guarantee
 

Clive

Staff Member
NFFN Member
Location
Lichfield
great pictures Simon - similar to what I have seen here, soils that used to plough / cultivate very red (Fe based geology) are now much more brown / black - even in our 7years we have created a new layer of topsoil thats a lot better than whet we were farming a decade ago
 

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HSENI names new farm safety champions

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Written by William Kellett from Agriland

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The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) alongside the Farm Safety Partnership (FSP), has named new farm safety champions and commended the outstanding work on farm safety that has been carried out in the farming community in the last 20 years.

Two of these champions are Malcom Downey, retired principal inspector for the Agri/Food team in HSENI and Harry Sinclair, current chair of the Farm Safety Partnership and former president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).

Improving farm safety is the key aim of HSENI’s and the FSP’s work and...
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