Farming focus in June for BSSS

Jun 14, 2024 | Blog

[Updated 3 July 2024]

Farming was the topic of the month of June for the British Society of Soil Science.

Zoom into Soil webinar | WSDG Event | Open Farm Sunday | Groundswell | Lincolnshire Show

Research on soils and enhanced understanding and engagement with soils is essential for many sectors including agriculture, and part of our mission is to promote research and education, both academically and in practice, and build collaborative partnerships to help safeguard our soil for the future. We understand how vital soil is to sustaining life on Earth, producing our food and sustaining rich ecosystems.

This year’s World Environment Day brought that into sharp focus and also the challenge that confronts us. Soil is essential to all life on Earth: producing 95% of our food, supporting biodiversity, storing carbon, and mitigating flooding. Yet, land degradation continues at an alarming rate and human activity is putting our soils at risk. It is important that we all do our bit to protect our soils.

As the leading UK society for soil scientists, we wanted to provide more information on this topic and therefore, the theme of farming and agriculture in relation to soils has been the focus of BSSS activities for this month.

Zoom into Soil

This theme was covered in our latest Zoom into Soil webinar at the start of June. We welcomed Don Lobb, former farmer and long-time soil advocate from Canada, and Prof. Andrew Neal, research scientist at Rothamsted Research, as they discussed sustainable farming on soils.


The webinar covered Sustainable Soil Management and also Navigating Trade-offs for Optimal Soil Function. These were important topics that sparked much discussion and engagement between the presenters and the attendees watching live. This linked in regenerative agriculture more widely, something that is a hot topic now in the sector. It is great to see initiative such as the Six Inches of Soil film highlight these topics and explore them in creative ways to engage a wider audience. The film is an inspiring story of British farmers standing up against the industrial food system and transforming the way they produce food – to heal the soil, benefit our health and provide for local communities. BSSS member, Hannah Bowley, gave her thoughts about the film and the wider context.

“I work as a soil chemistry researcher in agriculture, so was thrilled when my local screening of SIOS was a sell-out, with 200 members of public in the audience. After the film we discussed learning points from the screening, and ways in which non-famers can help improve the quality of soils, both in our own plots and when buying food. Such was the enthusiasm that we held a second screening and discussion session the following month, where plans were made for specific community action. In my work I am finding more interest from farmers as to how they can manage their land positively for soil “health” and these local events show that there is a matched interest in the wider community. I very much hope that this momentum can be captured and used to grow awareness among communities, policy makers and food growers, that soil is a precious resource which deserves respect, care and protection from us all.”


Hannah Bowley, soil researcher and data analyst

WSDG Annual Meeting

Our Welsh regional group was pleased to show a screening of the film at their Annual Meeting at the end of June. The Welsh Soil Discussion Group (WSDG) held their event at Aberystwyth University, which included an introduction to the WSDG, a screening of the film Six Inches of Soil, a panel discussion, a visit to the Biomass Connect site, and networking. 

Open Farm Sunday

Open Farm Sunday is one of the farming industry’s biggest success stories and provides a fantastic opportunity for visitors to learn more about farming.

BSSS members attended local Open Farm Sunday events on Sunday 9 June, to highlight the importance of soil. Neil Fullen, Dick Thompson, Natalie Coles and Christine Berrill hosted a large walk through soil pit at Bedfordia Farms. They took along a range of leaflets relating to soil that catered for all ages. They even had the odd pram come through the pit. The event was attended by a large number of young families virtually all of whom walked through and studied the soil pit. There was a lot of interest in the especially large earthworms that were present in the soil. Neil bought along a solar-powered microscope and displayed earthworms on a video screen, linking worms through soil to food. The soil was a groundwater gley with some strongly contrasting gleyed subsurface horizons which attracted a lot of attention. The event was very worthwhile and thoroughly enjoyed by all the team.

Groundswell Show

We exhibited and attended several events during the month, which included Groundswell. The regenerative agricultural festival took place at Lannock Manor Farm in Hertfordshire, and BSSS was based in the demo field. Groundswell provides a forum for anyone interested in food production and the environment to learn about the applications of regenerative farming systems.

Lincolnshire Show

Also for the first time, BSSS exhibited at the Lincolnshire Show which took place at the Lincolnshire Showground. We were based in the Education marquee which this year was themed around ‘Super Soils’. Our team at the event showcased one of our loan boxes and spoke to visitors about soil and the Society.

The topics of farming, agriculture and soil health are sure to be covered in Annual Conference which is taking place from Wednesday 4 – Friday 6 December at Glamorgan Cricket Club in Cardiff. The overall theme is Sustainable Soils for People and Planet meaning the event will span the built, natural environment and agricultural sectors. The conference will coincide with World Soil Day (5 December) which highlights the importance of healthy soil and advocates for the sustainable management of soil resources. We understand how vital soil is to sustaining life on Earth, producing our food and sustaining rich ecosystems. With new and emerging policies, there is an ever increasing development of policy and commitment to put this into practice to help with the long-term productivity and resilience of the soil. We will also endeavour to explore multiple functions of soil, such as mitigating flooding, adapting to climate change and increasing biodiversity.


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