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Grower wealth through soil health


East Malling Research’s (EMR) stand at Fruit Focus will focus on soil and the multiple roles that it plays as our ally in sustainable food production and ecosystem function. As a non-renewable resource, EMR will advocate for sustainable soil management in this, the International Year of Soils. Scientists at EMR estimate that soil expertise in the arable sector is a generation ahead of the perennial fruit industry, with replant disease, nutrient management and compaction all warranting urgent new research work. EMR’s stand will showcase some of the key elements that make up soil and what soil does for growers. The stand will also feature a project worth £482k, recently awarded to EMR, to study Apple Replant Disease (ARD) evolution and rootstock interaction (ARDERI). Through this project, EMR hopes to provide detailed information about ARD with a view to developing new management strategies and to provide input for breeding programmes.

“UK growers are sitting on their greatest untapped resource – soil – which has a huge potential to deliver greater profitability,” said EMR Soil Scientist Dr Emma Tilston. She continued, “The recently announced BBSRC/HAPI project looking at ARD is a significant step forward, but in the International Year of Soils we should also be looking more widely about how we manage our soils to reap the greatest financial benefits.”

Apart from the role of healthy soils as the basis for healthy food production and food security, soils help with mitigation and adaptation to climate change by playing a key role in the carbon cycle. They also store and filter water, which helps to improve resilience to floods and droughts.

Emma has specific expertise in soil, the plant-soil-microbial interactions and nutrient cycling. Along with her knowledge and facilities like the East Malling Rhizolab in which carbon cycling and the soil microflora can be monitored in situ, and expertise in monitoring water in soils and the use of beneficial organisms such as Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi, EMR is contributing further to the goal of attaining healthy soils and managing soils sustainably.

EMR can be found on stand 110 at Fruit Focus 2015.