Soil health is vital to producing a good and healthy yield from your farmland. The ancient method of protecting soil was through rotating the crops grown on specific pieces of land and leaving land fallow to maintain soil health. Historically, growing the same crop in a field over multiple harvests (also known as monocropping) depleted soil health by removing nutrients and increasing susceptibility to pests and weeds. Crop rotation is thought to have been practiced since 6000BCE; there is even a mention of crop rotation within the Bible, where farmers are instructed to not farm at all on a piece of land every seven years.

Modern methods of farming developed, for example fertilisers and other treatments, meant that these ancient methods were no longer necessary to replace the nutrients in the soil, offering increased yield of production without the necessity to change the type of crop grown or leaving land fallow.

However, recent studies indicate that these modern methods can impact the overall soil health present in farms negatively. Tested soil has seen an overall decrease in healthy microbes, in addition to the harmful organisms. Soil is in itself a microbiome, where multiple organisms exist in a complex ecosystem which overall creates a healthy soil. The reliance upon chemical elements in order to treat soil have, therefore, harmed soil health.

However, a return to more traditional methods of crop rotation and soil protection may not be possible, due to the fact that farmers would be forced to leave entire fields fallow for a whole year, not only impacting the amount of food which can be locally grown and harvested in the UK, but could also be financially disastrous.

This past year has seen a 20% loss in income for farmers across the UK as a result of Brexit, Covid-19, and climate change. This loss is real terms is close to a billion pounds, losses which hit small farmers disproportionately. Further, UK farmers are facing cuts to their subsidies, as they no longer qualify for EU common agricultural policy payments. However, in a new plan set out by the government, farmers are set to be offered a financial incentive to promote greener farming, including undertaking actions on your farm which improve overall soil health.

It is thought that in order to protect the good biodiversity of topsoil in the UK, different methods of sustainable farming will have to be undertaken in the long term. In the short term, however, a good compromise to treat soil and remove harmful organisms whilst not adding chemical treatments which damage helpful bacteria and harm soil is through heat sterilisation.

Heat sterilisation is a method of sterilising soil through increasing the temperature in order to make it impossible for harmful organisms and pathogens to survive. It was invented as a method of mitigating concerns surrounding the use of chemicals in farming, and is often viewed as being more effective than chemical sterilisation. This is because harmful organisms, pests and diseases which will damage the crop being grown in a certain field cannot survive at extreme temperatures, therefore, killing off anything which would negatively impact the health of the soil, and allowing healthy organisms to be reintroduced, for example through compost.

A benefit of heat soil sterilisation is that it provides a source of relief for soil from harmful substances and/or organisms, as well as killing weeds, and increasing overall crop yield potential. Overall, heat soil sterilsation revitalises soil, giving it a new lease of life so that it can best support your crop. Poor soil health is known to be a major factor when it comes to a limited crop yield. Therefore, healthy soil is not just good for the ecosystem and the environment, but ultimately good for your business.

The Nicholson Machinery soil steriliser is designed for continuous operation. Untreated soil is placed into the machine, before it is heated in a rotating drum to temperatures between 40°C and 80°C. It is the perfect solution to your soil health problems, and has been specifically designed to be able to function using several different fuel options, including bio-diesel.

At Nicholson we are dedicated to delivering quality farming equipment that meets the specific needs of each customer, with innovation and crop care at the forefront of everything we do. Our ongoing commitment into new product development allows us to explore new manufacturing processes and new materials, and create new solutions that contribute to the wider goal of lowering our carbon footprint, and promoting soil health in order to help both the environment and farmers.