The fascinating subject of soil health will be the focus of the next meeting of the Lochaber Monitor Farm on 7 September.
Strone Farm, a 1,200-hectare hill farm located in the Great Glen, is run by Chris Cameron in partnership with his father Malcolm and mother Eileen.
At the next meeting, which will begin at 11am and includes lunch, Dr Bill Crooks, Soil specialist from SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College, will explain how soil health influences grass growth, describe the essential soil nutrients and highlight options for improving soil structure. There will also be a tour of three different fields at Strone to assess their soil health.
The microbial activity of soil, an indicator of soil health, can be visually assessed in a simple practical experiment.
After the last Lochaber monitor farm meeting in June, ten local farmers (including Chris and Malcolm Cameron) agreed to bury some cotton underwear in the soil on their own farms for a period of eight weeks. The #soilmyundies experiment originated in Canada and is now a popular trial on many monitor farms.
On 7 September, the Lochaber farmers will dig up their simmets and bring them along to the meeting, along with a plug of soil where they were buried, where the group will discuss and judge the microbial activity of the soil on each of the farms that took part.
One of the challenges the Camerons face is that some of the fields at Strone are prone to poaching damage from their herd of 40 pedigree Limousin cattle over a long grazing season.
Chris Cameron commented: “We are not very happy with the performance of some of our fields. We can get grass to grow, but are finding it difficult to utilise that grass.”
He added: “We look forward to hearing any suggestions from fellow farmers as to how we can come up with practical and cost-effective solutions to this problem.”
A full reseed has taken place in one of the fields in association with Watson Seeds. Progress on this reseed will be discussed with the group and those who attend will have the option to visit this field and see the grass performance.
The Lochaber Monitor Farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established around Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds. The aim of the programme, which is funded by Scottish Government, is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.
The meetings are open and free for all farmers to attend. Attendees will also have an input into topics covered, speakers invited to meetings and visits to other enterprises and businesses.
To book your attendance (and lunch!) please contact Niall Campbell or Morven MacArthur on 01631 563093 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the monitor farm programme click here