Soil Health; A Living Perspective (full day workshop with Joel Williams), 21st March, Berkshire

Soil Health; A Living Perspective

Optimising Soil Management for Productivity (6 BASIS points; 2E, 1GM, 3N)
with Joel Williams, Tuesday 21st March
Sheepdrove Organic Farm Eco-Conference Centre, Sheepdrove Road, Lambourn, Berkshire, RG17 7UU

This event is a comprehensive full day presentation, suitable for commercial farmers including but not restricted to organic producers (Joel is very pragmatic and appreciates the need for commercial farmers to maintain productivity whilst building soil biology). It is also relevant for those concerned with home/community production.

Joel's cv is impressive and extensive (see his profile for greater detail), but in short, after focussing more strongly on soil chemistry and nutrient balancing in Australia he worked with Elaine Ingham at Laverstoke in the UK, inverting the emphasis and focussing more strongly on optimising the soil biology with a reduced weighting to mineral management. Now he tends to take a middle road but is happy to deliver on whichever side the audience requires. He is particularly interested in the links between nutrition and pest and disease pressure, and how nutrient corrections when supplemented with biological protection can be used to manage insect and disease problems. After some time back in Australia, we are fortunate that he has now returned to England again.

Joel was recommended to us by one of our farmers in the south-west a few years ago and and has proved popular since, with AHDB and other organisations frequently commissioning him to do shorter presentations for their audiences. Participants attending both have commented that this workshop was a good foundation for the Stewarding Your Soil course, which provides more practical elements related to making good compost and using microscopes; we intend to run more of these or something somewhat similar later in the year.

Here are some of the things people said about the initial day we ran in February 2015:
"Superb course, would love to learn more"
"A well structured, interesting and inspiring day"
"It was a really interesting, informatibe and inspiring course... I'll definitely be putting some of what I have learned into practice both at home and at..."
"Really interesting and understandable talk on soil that actually helped me understand what to look for practically and get enthused about fungi!"
"A big subject nicely broken down into nicely digestible chunks"
"Very intersting/exciting - even for the amateur (I thought it may well go over my head, but I took in a lot)"
"Quality, trustworthy information delivered in a very understandable way. Clarified a lot of the mysteries of soil biology"
"Excellent overview of soil biology and how to achieve better microbial health. Relevant for all audiences interesting in farming."
"Absolutely fantastic day! Well worth the trip from Aberdeen" (and that was to South Devon...)
"Highly informative... Well structured... Applied knowledge..."

And here are some links to media articles about Joel/the day.

Proposed Timetable
  • Introduction: The Living Soil
    • Introduction of the main microbe groups.
    • Understanding the role of soil life for soil nutrient supply and crop production.
    • Functions, roles and interactions of microbes in agro-ecosystems.
    • Nutrient cycling, availability and extraction by plants.
    • Influences of plant morphology.
  • Soil Carbon: The centrepiece of soil health
    • Plants, photosynthesis, root exudates and microbes.
    • Carbon sequestration, nutrient access, disease suppression, soil structure, glomalin
    • How to build AMF via management of environment, agronomics, rotations, inoculations, green manures, how to avoid practices that suppress them.
    • Fungi:Bacteria Balance.
    • Soil disturbance/no-till farming – discusses soil carbon sequestration, soil structure, how to offset negative effects of tillage to support soil life.
  • Organic manures and Composts: stabilising nutrients in the landscape while optimising crop supply
    • Manures vs composts.
    • Quality vs Quantity.
    • Manure applications, nutrient content and supplementing soils with additional nutrients.
    • Composting summary – general introduction (temp, O2 etc).
    • Practical account of ‘how to’ to make compost for soil application.
    • Practical manure management and compost making on a time budget.
    • Manure and compost amendments – building carbon and addressing soil deficiencies.
  • Making the most of soil: Understanding soil nutrients and amendments
    • Leveraging existing soil fertility and optimising any purchased inputs.
    • Nutrient behaviour in soils, nutrient synergies/antagonisms.
    • Understanding total, exchangeable, soluble nutrient pools.
    • Slow release, fast release.
    • Biostimulants, biofertilisers, chemical inputs – how these inputs influence soil biology and crop quality.
    • The role of carbon and carbon-input complexes.
  • Where to next?
    • Rethinking minerals and microbes – balancing nutrient supply and soil agro-ecological health in order to optimise photosynthesis, crop quality, pest and disease pressure.
    • Integrated disease management and novel approaches to managing plant immune responses – biostimulants, bioinoculants, compost extracts.

Cost (includes refreshments and 'hot seasonal bowl' style lunch courtesy of the Sheepdrove Kitchen):

Individuals: £85; Representatives of Organisations: £135 (Booking Form attached)

For more details please contact: Natasha: 07866 674205 or email


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Kiwi Pete

Livestock Farmer
He doesn't come cheap I'm afraid - but those who attend tend to consider it good value for money. However, coming from New Zealand would be rather expensive; why don't you email him and see if he's going to over your way anytime soon?
Thanks for the suggestion, I think I could soon arrange a few hundred interested people to make it worth his while! (y)

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Five nature-recovery projects spanning 100,000ha launched

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Written by Michelle Martin from Agriland

Five nature-recovery projects spanning nearly 100,000ha across the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, the Peak District, Norfolk and Somerset have been announced by the government and Natural England today (Thursday, May 26).

This is the equivalent in size to all 219 current National Reserves.

The aim of the projects is to deliver nature recovery at a landscape scale, helping to tackle biodiversity loss, climate change and improve public health and well-being.

All five projects will make a significant contribution towards the national delivery of the international commitment to protect at least 30% of land and...