Industry Representative: Guy Thallon, Produce World
AHDB Horticulture Cost: £453,876
Summary:Cranfield University, with an impressive record in soils research and management, including ongoing support for the UK Land Information System (LandIS), will integrate soils data from a variety of sources, (including data from other projects) and many horticultural business to provide a single, coherent, robust, empirically-based, best-practice guidance and the likely consequences of applying them for a variety of uses. To do this, we need to know whether soil management interventions can restore and even enhance soil and what practices can lead to optimum outcomes, with associated benchmarking.
The primary aims of this project are to:
a) Develop a Soil Management Information System (SMIS) to hold, manipulate and represent available sources of data pertaining to the specific effects of soil management practices on horticultural crop productivity and environmental protection and allow evaluation of soils in their rotational contexts.
b) Implement outputs from the SMIS such as an ‘e-Guide’ toolkit, permitting AHDB-Horticulture and its growers, agronomists and land managers access to guidance and information on evidence-based, optimal soil management practices for horticulture.
The SMIS will be populated with data from current AHDB-Horticulture sponsored soil projects, from the scientific and grey literature, from ‘live’ grower generated data and also key land and environment data to which the team has unique access through LandIS and the Scottish National Soils database.
The grower generated soils data will be collected from vegetable industry and other project partners but will also be proactively sought including that from fruit and some field ornamentals crops. All data will be anonymised. Industry partners are being directly consulted, in the first instance contacts have been setup up for a range of producers including leafy salads and herbs, speciality veg, red beet, Brassicas, asparagus, outdoor cucurbits, carrots & parsnips and sweetcorn. There is a strong input from the vining pea industry via PGRO who will be supplying their soil survey data collected from growers.
I. Resource review to determine the data requirements, sources, and appropriate template/formats for data inclusion in the ‘Soil management Information System’ (SMIS). A review of existing soil information management approaches will be conducted. (mainly Year 1)
II. Data collation - undertake a substantive data gathering exercise, focussing on the soil system and horticultural crop best management practices, drawing on literature, and reported case studies.
A key concern is the need to preserve anonymity in the data and these will be addressed. A coherent common framework of data will be assembled for inclusion within SMIS and rationalisation will allow combination of these data with other existing national thematic datasets (e.g. soils data from Cranfield’s ‘LandIS’ and James Hutton Institute’s Scottish soils database) to produce coherent data coverage and representation, (Years 1 & 2).
III.Building the Soil Management Information System with ability to hold, manipulate, validate and manage data to provide information on the benefits of soil management practices on horticultural crop productivity and environmental protection. Will also capture policy-oriented and best-practice guidelines.
The computing environment will be used to hold, manipulate and manage the datasets, use analysis tools and ultimately the e-Guide and other outputs, (Years 2 & 3).
IV. Development of analytical methods and statistical modelling, drawing across the body of data assembled, allowing comparative assessment and benchmarking against available grower and case-study data. This analysis will enable the provision of information as to how current soil management practices affect soil across a wide range of horticultural crops, (Years 2 & 3).
V. Implement a dissemination ‘e-Guide’ toolkit, permitting stakeholders such as growers, agronomists and land managers access to guidance and information on evidence-based, optimal soil management practices and to inform future decisions on soils research and KT.
This will allow consideration of the effects of different cultivation methods within different rotations identified for a set of given soil types (from SMIS or input directly by the user) and climatic zones (Year 3).