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Rock On Soils: soil carbon development for Scottish farmers

The Rock On Soils project will see scientists and farmers working together
“This is such an intriguing project to be part of, and it is an excellent example of grassroots farming grasping the opportunity to work with cross-sector partners in the scientific sector”

The James Hutton Institute is taking part in a project led by the Scottish Organic Producers Association (SOPA), the UK’s only membership body owning Scottish organic standards, which will examine a new product that could help Scottish farmers draw down more carbon into their soils.

The Rock On Soils project will see scientists and farmers working together to investigate the use of crushed basic silicate rocks as a soil input and aims to determine the carbon sequestration potential alongside any additional soil and biodiversity benefits. The initiative is funded by the Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF).

Besides the James Hutton Institute, project partners include Abertay University, the University of Dundee, and the Geoscience department of German institution Forschungszentrum Juelich, with plenty of farmer involvement too including Alex Brewster of Rotmell Farm, recently announced Farm Carbon Toolkit and Innovation for Agriculture 2020 Soil Farmer of the Year.  Emily Grant of Forrit (Farming and Consultancy) will be managing the 8-month project, along with Debs Roberts at SOPA.

The project has three main objectives: (1) Demonstrating the use of the silicate rock on Rotmell Farm, monitoring the movement of carbon between the air and soil and noting any changes in plant health and production, soil chemistry and soil microbiology; (2) Bringing together a network of a dozen or so innovative, forward-thinking pilot farmers (organic and non-organic) who will test and evaluate the silicate rock product on small test plots on their respective farms and consider the practicalities of using the product at farm scale, and (3) Developing a simple app for the wider farm audience that will allow farmers to identify the carbon sequestration potential of their own soils using silicate rock products.

Due to COVID-19 and current restrictions, the project has adapted to take on a more innovative virtual style of delivery. From networking with the pilot farmers and its own Twitter presence, @RockOnSoils; to disseminating relevant information and regular virtual meetings, the group will manage the project activity online.

Debs Roberts, Policy Manager for SOPA, had the following to say about the project: “This is such an intriguing project to be part of, and it is an excellent example of grassroots farming grasping the opportunity to work with cross-sector partners in the scientific sector.”

“The prospect of farmers and scientists collaborating so closely on ‘Rock On Soils’ is incredibly exciting, and the fact that we have been able to go ahead virtually is really innovative – going online overcomes barriers that often come with multiple geographical locations, and of course keeps everyone safe with COVID.”

Emily Grant added: “Farming and agriculture has been given a bad name when it comes to environmental impacts, so we are really keen to investigate ways that Scottish farmers can be more carbon-friendly and help deliver Scottish Government climate change goals. The initial research suggests that this product could be a game-changer, not only in terms of tackling climate change, but also helping to improve soil and plant health.  We could be at the cutting edge of some really positive work for carbon-friendly farming.”

Updates will be disseminated as the project moves forward and into 2021. Anyone interested in finding out more information can follow the project Twitter account: @RockOnSoils.

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, James Hutton Institute, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/rock-soils-soil-carbon-development-scottish-farmers on 27/09/20 04:36:19 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.