ARTIS NEWS: Get the spade out to identify soil structure problems

22 Jun 2014


Farmers are being encouraged to get out of the tractor and start digging to check for compaction and soil structure problems.

Setting in place the knowledge and skills to improve the structure and fertility of soils is the focus of the first set of courses on a new farmer training initiative which is already changing on-farm decision-making. Farmers attending the first soils course in Cambridgeshire this week said that they would be reviewing their current cultivation techniques alongside digging more soil holes to check for compaction.

The ARTIS Soils Foundation courses have been prepared by Brian Chambers and the soils team at ADAS in partnership with NIAB. They aim to improve on-farm cultivation decisions by covering the principles of soil management, including identification of soil structure issues and the options available to farmers to alleviate short and long-term problems.

The first courses, led by ADAS soils experts Ken Smith, Paul Newell-Price and Mel Hollway, are split between field and classroom. “Getting out into the field with a spade is a key component of our training courses. We want participants to have a sound understanding of the principles of soil management - to be equipped to identify and recognise problems. This includes the impact of cultivation and management practices and practical approaches to drainage,” said Dr Newell-Price.

ARTIS training co-ordinator Juno McKee is delighted with the positive feedback from the first delegates. “Soil management is a key issue; our first course has clearly shown how farmers and growers are open to changing management practices when provided with the correct advice and skills.

“Subsoiling depth, controlled traffic management, the impact of direct drilling, and soil compaction have all been raised as issues that our delegates would change or investigate further following the course. But they also want greater detail on many aspects, which will be delivered in the prograDig a soil holemme of courses as it develops in the autumn and spring.”

Places are still available on the ARTIS Soils Foundation courses at:

  • Writtle College Rural Business Centre near Chelmsford on 25th June (clay loam soil profile pit);
  • Askham Bryan College near York on 26th June (sandy clay loam over limestone soil profile pit);
  • Royal Agricultural University near Cirencester on 30th June (clay soil profile pit);
  • Gs Growers Highfield Training Centre, near Ely on 3rd July (clay loam and peat over clay soil profile pits).

Book your place online at or phone 01223 342421.


ARTIS - the Agri-Tech Register and Training for Innovation and Skills – is an industry-led training initiative that provides the latest innovative agricultural and horticultural research outcomes and advice straight to farmers.

The focus is on the crop husbandry, technologies and regulatory or economic issues that impact on crop production. Each course is built to ensure that farmers, growers and agronomists can easily apply the most productive methods to their everyday operations to boost productivity and profitability. Topics cover Soil and Water; Crop Protection; Nutrient Management; New Farming Systems; and Optimising Production.

ARTIS covers arable crops, field vegetable and salad crops and top and soft fruit crops. Each course is led by an ARTIS accredited trainer drawn from industry experts, agronomists and consultants.

The project is led by G’s Growers, NIAB, LANTRA and East Malling Research but new training materials will be commissioned from researchers and technical sources in the UK and abroad.
01223 342421

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