South West Soil Discussion Group

South West Soil Discussion Group

The South West England Soils Discussion Group (SWESDiG) was set up in 1975 to stimulate interest in the study of soils in the Region, and provide a means whereby individuals from different institutions and fields of activity can meet to discuss problems and topics of common interest.Membership of the group is free. Meetings are organised on an ad hoc basis on selected themes relevant to the wider study of soils, land use and the environment in the South West.

Group Chair: Dr Martin Blackwell

Group Secretary: Dr Rob Parkinson

Contact SWESDiG

Latest posts

BSSS Annual General Meeting

Dear all,

As you may know, unfortunately the Society Annual General Meeting (AGM) scheduled for 3 September was unable to take place due to the lack of members either in attendance at the meeting or who had submitted their proxy in advance.

The AGM is essential for conducting formal business of the Society. Without it, we are unable to elect BSSS representatives, or carry out essential business such as approving our accounts and appointing auditors.

The rescheduled AGM will take place on Thursday 8 October from 1:00 – 1:30pm.

Tender opportunity - education

Dear all,

I hope you are managing ok with the heat, and getting chance to enjoy the summer now it seems to have come back for a while. Thank goodness we're lucky in the southwest to have such a choice of beautiful outdoor places to explore.

Our Southwest Chair, Leila, is also part of the BSSS Education Committee and has asked me to remind you about this tender opportunity:

Zoom into Soil

Event date: 
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Event venue: 
Go To Webinar
Event description: 

Zoom into Soil: Erosion will take place on Wednesday 2 September from 12:00 – 1:00pm and is free of charge for all delegates. 

‘Zoom into Soil: Erosion’, will feature Professor Jane Rickson and farmer John Chinn who will discuss erosion from both an academic and practical perspective, setting out the challenges which erosion poses, proposed solutions and the long-term implications of erosion if left unchecked.

In her presentation, Professor Rickson will describe the main processes of soil erosion and the different types of erosion operating in the UK. She will present the evidence on the rates of soil loss and whether these are sustainable, especially in the light of extreme weather events and climate change. She will set to quantify the impacts of soil erosion in monetary terms, as this justifies the costs of soil conservation (soil erosion control) policy and practices.

Farmer John Chinn, will outline his first-hand experience with gulley erosion, the impact this had on his crop, the relationship with his customers and the Environment Agency as a result. John will set out how he has worked with Cranfield University to secure his farms from the long-term challenges associated with erosion, whilst maximising crop yields and accruing some thoughts on the meaning of soil health.

To book a place at the seminar visit Go To Webinar:


'Zoom into Soil': Nutrient Efficiency

Event date: 
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Event venue: 
Go To Webinar
Event description: 

‘Zoom into Soil’: A new online webinar series

A new lunchtime online webinar series, ‘Zoom into Soil’ is an opportunity for anyone with an interest in soil, the natural environment, agriculture and food production, to hear from respected technical and academic experts.

‘Nutrient Efficiency’ will take place on Wednesday 22 July from 12:00 – 1:00pm and is free of charge to attend.

Speakers, Richard Reeves and Martin Blackwell, will provide an overview of their experience from both practical and academic viewpoints.

Organised by the British Society of Soil Science (BSSS), delegates attending 'Nutrient Efficiency’ will hear from first generation farmer Richard Reeves and Dr Martin Blackwell, a senior research scientist at Rothamsted Research.

Richard Reeves’ 'from the farm' perspective, will set out the importance and role of managing soil nutrients, placing particular emphasis on recycled nutrients such as sludgecake and green waste and the significant impact the ways this waste is treated prior to application, can have. Richard will discuss the Met Office records that he has been keeping over many decades, the patterns emerging, and how these are impacting soils and the application of nutrients. 

Martin Blackwell’s presentation, Caught between a rock and a hard place: how can we use phosphorus fertilisers more efficiently? will discuss the finite rock phosphate resources and the risk which the threat of this dwindling resource brings: protecting future food production. Martin will discuss the fundamental changes which need to be made to the way phosphorous fertilisers are sourced to maintain food supplies for a growing global population.  

The hour-long session, which will also provide the opportunity for delegates to ask questions, will be available on the BSSS Youtube page after the event.

To book a place at the first seminar visit Go To Webinar:  

BSSS will host future webinars on 2 September and 7 October, with further monthly dates and registration details to be announced.

Speaker Biographies

Richard Reeves

Richard Reeves is a first generation farmer. Since 1981, he has farmed 800 acres of land in Cheshire, using a wide combination of crops on a range of different tenancies. Prior to this, in the 1970s, Richard was involved in farm management with Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) and worked closely with the Duke of Westminster. Richard obtained a BSc(Hons) in Agriculture from Leeds University, and in the last 15 years, he has kept a close affiliation with Lancaster University, hosting students visits to his farm. He has also been a visiting speaker for environmental science students, talking on a range of topics, including UK farming practices. Richard is a former Chairman of the National Farmers' Union's (NFU) North West Crops board, and was a spokeman on organic resources. 

Martin Blackwell

Dr Martin Blackwell is a Senior Research Scientist at Rothamsted Research, UK. He is a soil biogeochemist with over 25 years’ experience of studying both phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) cycling. Recent work has focussed on P use efficiency and P cycling in arable and grassland systems, the role of organic P in plant nutrition, and the development of better P fertiliser application rate recommendations. 



Job opportunity (deadline 10th July)

Dear all,

The SWSDG committee hope you are all keeping well and making the most of opportunities still open to you at the moment. Happily gazing at soil isn't currently rationed!

One opportunity you may be interested to hear about is a job as a Senior Soils Specialist which is currently being advertised with Natural England. For more details please follow this link:

The deadline is 10th July.

IES Webinar: Sustainable soil remediation: seeking alternatives

Event date: 
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Event venue: 
Event description: 

Wednesday 3rd June 2020: 12:30 - 1:15pm

The IES and British Society of Soil Science (BSSS) have joined together to bring you the second episode in a series of webinars exploring the topic of sustainable soil remediation. 

Traditionally, soil remediation is achieved by excavation and removal for off-site disposal. Often referred to as ‘dig and dump’, the very use of the phrase indicates that it’s a wasteful methodology.

Whilst, the use of dig and dump appeared to slow through the 2000s due to increasing charges brought about by the landfill tax escalator, its use has been enabled and even promoted in recent years through the operation of soil treatment sites and reclamation facilities.

In this presentation, TRC examine this process to explore the wider environmental impacts of this type of methodology i.e. air emissions, carbon impact, fuel consumption, traffic generation etc. And as environmental practitioners striving for more sustainable remediation options, we examine possible alternatives.

Further details and registration HERE

POSTPONED - social this week

Hi Everyone,

Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 virus, it has been decided to postpone all non-essential events being run by the society. This means this Thursday's networking event in Bath will be postponed.

We are very sorry as we had a lot of interest and it looked to be a great evening, but your health and wellbeing comes first.

We will definitely book it in again once everything calms down. Look after yourselves and see you next time!

on behalf of SWSDG

“Future Directions in Soil Science” - Midlands Soil Discussion Group: POSTPONED

Event date: 
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
Event venue: 
Rural Science Building, University of Lincoln Research Farm, Riseholme Campus, Riseholme, Lincoln, LN2 2LG, UK
Event description: 

“Future Directions in Soil Science”



Wednesday 29th April  - starts: 10am

A morning tour of Agri-tech (Robots!!!) and agri-environment projects and experiments

Followed by lunch and an afternoon of presentations on current soils research.

Finish 4:15pm

If you would like to give a talk please send a title to Andy Tye

We are especially keen to provide PhD students the opportunity to present their work 


BSSS members – Free

Student NON-Members - £15*   *Proof of student status will be required at time of booking - please see payment page for details.

NON-Members - £20