Getting a grip underground – Cereals tackles rooting and drainage

You are currently viewing Getting a grip underground – Cereals tackles rooting and drainage

The NIAB Soil Hole will once again feature at the Cereals Event, giving a unique insight into crop growth below ground, with a focus on different soil monitoring approaches.

“This year we will be demonstrating soil monitoring – what, how, when and why,” explains NIAB’s head of farming systems Dr Elizabeth Stockdale. “This includes a demonstration of an automated soil sampling robot from the Small Robot Company, working with a consortium led by PES Technologies including NIAB, alongside a working soil sequencing display.

“We will be highlighting how to use collected data to inform decisions. It is not just a question of gathering data – we need to make good choices based on it.”

Some soil parameters will be measured in the Soil Hole during the event. “These include physical structure, water management and biological activity,” says Dr Stockdale. “Other samples will have been taken in advance of the show.”

With blackgrass still a major problem, and continuing issues with oilseed rape and cabbage stem flea beetle, rotations designed around cover crops and spring cropping are increasing in popularity. The Soil Hole will offer a look at what is happening underground with these crops, she adds.

“Sometimes spring crops get away slowly because they take time to build roots. The Soil Hole offers an opportunity to see the number of roots in different crops. In some crops they will be quite near the surface and for others, deeper.

“We have a superb diversity of crops lining the pit, including spring linseed, lupins, clover, beans and spring barley,” says Dr Stockdale. “We have also compacted some tramlines and will cut the wheat plots a couple of weeks before the event to give us a stubble field, so we can demonstrate the recommended sampling point for general rotational soil health sampling.”

NAAC Drainage Hub

Also focusing on matters underground will be the NAAC Drainage Hub, featuring lively, informative seminars and offering an opportunity to meet exhibitors from this important sector.

Philip Wright, soil consultant at Wright Resolutions, will be covering ‘soil structure, carbon, and the pathway to a more regenerative approach – it all relies on drainage’. Offering a farmer viewpoint, Jake Freestone of Overbury Estates will talk about ‘how land drainage improved my farm’, with Richard Price of Tetworth Hall Estate covering this topic on day two.

For those wishing to gain a handle on the cost/benefit of drainage, Harry Henderson at AHDB will cover the ‘economics of land drainage’. And for those unsure where to begin, Farm Services’ director Rob Burtonshaw, land drainage contractor and Nuffield Scholar, will give some pointers in his presentation – ‘thinking of drainage – where to start’.

There will be plenty of opportunity for visitors to pose questions to the panellists and go home fully armed with information on how to improve farm productivity through better drainage.

Around the stands in the NAAC Drainage Hub will be East Anglia-based Miles Drainage which offers a GPS-based land drainage design and installation service, according to the company’s Andrew Wright. “We will also be exhibiting the Miles Single Leg Mole Plough.”

Trencher manufacturer Mastenbroek will focus on the relatively new concept of land forming and land levelling, says commercial director Christopher Pett. This involves scraping ridges and moving soil into divots or lower areas of a field. “Land forming, which is commonplace in the United States and Europe but is yet to take off in the UK, creates more productive land, leading to better yields for farmers.”

Mitchell-Rowlands will exhibit a full specification professional Drainjetter for cleaning out land drains, says managing director Graham Mitchell-Rowlands. “It can hold up to 700m of hose. The twin hydraulically-driven drive system has enough power to cope with this hose length.

“The latest feature is a double hydraulic telescopic arm which can easily reach the opposite side of a dyke.”

Cotterill Civils will be showing and discussing a wide range of land drainage solutions, culvert pipes, rainwater harvesting tanks, sewage treatment solutions, water tanks and more, says group marketing executive Izzie Smith. “We are at Cereals to connect with existing and new customers and promote the benefits of land drainage.”

Murray Peat, associate at Fisher German, manages the company’s Linewatch, a safety organisation which raises awareness of oil and gas pipelines around the UK and encourages people to work around them safely. “Breaches to pipelines can damage the environment and cause death or injury to those working nearby,” he says.

Other companies exhibiting at the NAAC Drainage Hub include: DMJ Drainage, Naylor Drainage, the Fen Group and William Morfoot.

  • The Cereals Event will be held near Duxford, Cambridgeshire on 8-9 June 2022. For more information or to purchase tickets visit the relaunched website at