Focussing on Soil Organic Matter with Doug Taylor

Doug Taylor shares insights into how he has been improving soil organic matter on his farm, and the key role

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Kent farmer Doug Taylor has reaped the rewards of a long-term project to increase soil organic matter and now plans to take his soil and carbon even more seriously.

Few farmers would expect yields of up to 12 tonnes per hectare from their wheat on the back of only 167mm of rain since January. But ensuring soils have an optimum level of soil organic matter makes it possible for Doug Taylor’s crops to perform well even in a year of drought on his sandy down-land soils.

Increasing Soil Organic Matter

This has only been possible as the cumulation of almost 20 years of work on the 400ha he farms at Hope Farm, near Folkestone in Kent. Before then, the family ran a dairy too, with dung going onto the lighter arable soils. But when they stopped dairying and also stopped burning straw, Mr Taylor found that the land soon became less resilient as a result and that windblow on the sandy soils caused crop damage, shearing off new plants.

“We could see how dung had transformed the soil in the past, so looked for another source of organic matter and found composting.”

Back in 2003, the business started composting 3,000t of green waste for the local council, pioneering kerbside collections. Today, it processes 35,000t, using most of the resulting compost on-farm and selling up to 5,000t. Compost is spread after harvest and kept as near to the surface as possible, with the soil just ‘tickled’ to ensure the fine compost material disappears.

 

Optimising with Omnia

Measuring the outcome of everything he does has become much easier now that the farm is being mapped using TerraMap, which makes it possible to examine a whole host of attributes, but particularly organic matter and carbon in its various forms. Doug is then using insights from specific data points, together with satellite imagery, to prepare variable rate nitrogen applications.

The farm’s use of Omnia is proving useful for backing up decisions about variable rates. The information from both systems means there is a discussion about whether low yielding areas could be improved or whether they should be managed for a much lower yield potential.

Services Leader at Hutchinsons, Matt Ward, highlights that for nitrogen application in particular, there is the potential to stop feeding a 7.5t crop as it if was going to be a 10t crop, offering significant N savings.

 

Moving Forward

Over the winter, Mr Taylor plans to spend time interrogating his data in Omnia and doing more on carbon monitoring.

“It’s simple to set up, so every activity on-farm will have a carbon cost. So we will know our cultivation carbon cost, for instance, and want to better understand what we are doing.”

 

 

Learn more about TerraMap Carbon Here

 

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