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Assessing the impacts of lime application to pastures on soils, biodiversity, and forage quality

In the UK the addition of lime to agricultural land was strongly encouraged by Government subsidy payments to farmers, but since subsidies ceased in the late 1970’s the application of lime has declined with subsequent acidification of many soils. 

Increasing soil pH is thought to have biodiversity and agricultural benefits including increased bio-availability of soil nutrients, greater plant growth, improved forage quality and enhanced earthworm populations, which in turn could benefit wading birds that rely on them as a food source.

To test these reported benefits, in 2016 we set up an experiment across 3 farms: Glensaugh, and Auchnerran in Aberdeenshire and Hartwood in North Lanarkshire.  We selected two similar fields on each farm and in autumn 2017 we split each field in half, applying lime to one half of each field.  Over the following years (2017-2019) we measured various soil properties, monitored earthworm numbers and biomass, recorded plant species composition and quantified forage quality and microbial activity to show how the application of lime affected each of these characteristics.

We found little effect of liming on these measures, suggesting the soils assessed in this study were resilient to change in the short-term.  Further details of our experiment can be found here.

Contact: Debbie Fielding

Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project
SEFARI – Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research InstitutesSEFARI is the collective of six Scottish world-leading Research Institutes working across the spectrum of environment, land, food, agriculture and communities – all topics which affect how we live our lives, in Scotland and beyond.

Research

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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.