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Soil Under the Spotlight at Shetland Monitor Farm

The next meeting of the Shetland Monitor Farm on Saturday 2 December will focus on soil health.

Bigton Farm, a 300-hectare farm in the south of Shetland, is run by sisters Kirsty and Aimee Budge, with support from their family.

At the next meeting, which will begin at nearby Bigton Hall at 11am and includes lunch, Dr Bill Crooks, Soil Specialist from SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College, will explain how soil health influences grass growth.

Dr Crooks will also describe the essential soil nutrients and highlight options for improving soil structure. He will also suggest ways that farmers and crofters can make best use of fertiliser, dung and slurry.

The microbial activity of soil, an indicator of soil health, can be visually assessed in a simple practical experiment known as #soilmyundies.

Originating in Canada, this simple test is a popular way for farmers and crofters to get an indication of how healthy their soils are. Bigton farm has joined the other nine monitor farms along with other farmers and crofters in Shetland and buried cotton underwear on their farm this autumn. The results of their Bigton #soilmyundies trial will be shared at the meeting on 2 December.

“Aimee and I buried some very fetching cotton underpants in a  field on Bigton Farm eight weeks ago and five other members of the community Group have done the same on their farms,” said Kirsty Budge.

“The theory is that the bugs, worms and micro-organisms living in the soil will eat the cotton over time. So the less cotton that remains when we dig up the underpants, the more healthy our soil is.”

Aimee added: “As well as being a bit of fun, the message is really important. We need our soil to be healthy so that we can grow good quality grass to feed our livestock in the summer. We also grow barley to help feed our stock in the winter, so we are really hoping that the results of this trial show our soil to be in tip top condition!”

Also at this meeting, Paul Harvey and Sue White of the Shetland Amenity Trust will present Bigton Farm’s Environmental Audit and lead the discussion around possible management options.

The Shetland Monitor Farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established across Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds, with funding from the Scottish Government. The aim of the programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.

The meeting on Saturday 2 December will begin at 11am. Lunch will be provided and the meeting is expected to finish by 3pm. All are welcome and the event is free.

For catering purposes, those interested in coming along on 2 December should confirm their attendance with Graham Fraser from SAC Lerwick and call 01595 639520 or email frbslerwick@sac.co.uk by Monday 27 November.

For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.monitorfarms.co.uk