Sea water, fish remains and dirty underpants

More than 30 people from the North Norfolk Coastal Group, the Chalk and Sand Group and other organisations joined farmer David Cross and soil health expert Liz Genever for a talk and walk looking at the benefits of different methods of grassland management.

David has recently transitioned his farm on the chalky rolling fields of Sedgeford from a mostly arable to a predominantly livestock operation. Where once it was wheat and potatoes, now it is sheep, cattle and soon, pasture-fed chickens.

David’s story can be read in detail in the article at the foot of the page.

At the event, Liz outlined the good and bad qualities of the soil currently across Glover’s Farm. As was to be expected of heavily worked North Norfolk soil, calcium was high; water infiltration rates were high suggesting a high level of compaction; the rooting death of the plants were shallow and there was an absence of microbes in the soil. A lack of rhizosheaths suggest the roots that have grown are leaking sugar.

A display of underpants that had been dug into the soil suggested that there was some activity in the soil as there was definitely signs of disintegration.

Organic matter was below the desired 5 per cent and the soil’s capacity to hold nutrients was in the ‘could do better’ category.

Since David has put nearly 50 per cent of the farm down to different herbal leys mixes, these results are beginning to show changes. The common issue across all his tested fields was a lack of sodium, but this is something that can be remedied by a simple, natural process such as adding sea water.

And this was the point of the workshop. Liz and David were working on ways to address soil issues that were achievable through natural processes. Fish, sea-weed, molasses, and a range of other natural substances are being trialled to see if they can raise the mineral levels within the soil.

For anyone interested in learning more about the work being done by Liz and David, there is an accompanying set of slides. Please contact Sarah if you would like a copy.