Initial Results of Soil Structure Survey

November 8, 2009

As mentioned in a previous blog, the adoption of direct drilling techniques should, in theory, bring about an improvement in soil structure.  Dr. Nancy Oakes suggested the first step to looking at soil structure was to assess the bulk density.  On the 28th September a number of soil cores were taken across the field and the bulk density measured. The bulk density of soil is inversely related to the porosity of the soil. The more pore space in a soil, the lower the value for bulk density and so is a good indication of soil compaction.  Three fields were sampled – Cobb Hill, Lime Street and Roundmoors.  Cobb Hill was drilled in Oil Seed Rape, Limestreet was left as stubble awaiting sowing with winter beans and Roundmoors was drilled into Winter Linseed.  As Dr. Nancy Oakes indicates in her report, the absolute accuracy of the figures is less important than the comparisions between fields and drilled / undrilled areas.  To see the report click here  Hawthorn soils results 1 .  After passing through the field with the Claydon there is normally 7 inches of undisturbed soil between the drill legs hence the measurement of bulk density in the drilled area and between the drilled area.

This is what should happen !

This is what should happen !

Perhaps the most interesting question raised was whether the drill shatters and loosens the soil between the drill rows and so allow  the crop roots to penetrate  and make use of the nutrients or if we just end up with large areas of compacted, relatively underused soil inbetween the drill rows.

directdrill process

Dr Nancy Oakes - soil density

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