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The government’s 25 Year Environment Plan recognises the value of soil and consequently the importance of soil quality. As a result, our team swiftly identified an opportunity for landowners and farmers to measure and then monitor their soil as a way of both improving productivity and the investment value of their land.

Fisher German has developed an innovative technique of assessing and monitoring soil health & quality. Our Soils Matrix, developed in partnership with agronomy specialist Indigro, allows landowners to gain a scientific analysis of the soil they own and potentially quantify returns on money invested in soil health improvement in an accessible way.

For farmers focused on the lowest cost of production and improving productivity the Soils Matrix offers a way of benchmarking. For anyone interested in soil health, the Soils Matrix provides a current snapshot as well as suggesting techniques that are most likely to improve soil health in the future.

Technology

The soils matrix is driven by a computer model which calculates a weighted score for the condition of that particular soil.

Benefits

There are clear benefits of improving organic matter in soil. A 1% increase in a soil’s organic matter:

  • raises water-holding capacity by around 224,000 litres per hectare
  • provides sufficient food for around 1,000kg earthworm biomass
  • increases crop available nitrogen by approximately 30kg/ ha per year

Agricultural Land Classification Reports

We have experience and knowledge in undertaking Agricultural Land Classification reports for a variety of developments throughout the UK for projects including –

  • housing developments
  • proposed solar parks
  • motorway service stations

Our reports are generally required to define the specific land grade of a site which will then form part of a planning application for an alternative use.

The Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) system was introduced in 1966 to provide a high level mapping guide as to land quality for planning purposes across England and Wales. Over the years the system has been reviewed and guidance is now consolidated within the “revised guidelines and criteria for grading the quality of agricultural land” produced by the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in 1988.

 

Now nearly 30 years old, this guidance is the sole point of reference for any person wishing to determine land grade of any given piece of land in England and Wales.The system categorises land into five grades ranging from Grade 1 (the best) to Grade 5. Within this range, Grade 3 is split into two sub-grades, being good quality agricultural land and moderate quality agricultural land. Best and most versatile land is defined in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as any land shown to be Grade 1, 2 or 3a.

 

In arriving at the appropriate Grade for your land, the system considers a range of matters including:

 

  • Long term physical limitations to agricultural use – key factors relate to climate, site, soil and gradient.
  • Field observations – it is normal for augur samples to be taken on a one per hectare basis whilst also digging a soil pit so that soil horizons and composition can be analysed.

It is important to be aware that ALC considers grade on a sample by sample basis i.e. data from every auger sample or soil pit. Therefore, survey results may show a variety of land grades within a field, as supposed to a blanket coverage of a single grade that applies a whole field! This can help when considering which areas should be prioritised for potential development opportunities in preference to higher grade areas, within a single holding.

Soil Remediation advice

We provide bespoke advice to landowners, utility providers and developers on ground remediation at various stages of a scheme. This ranges from taking soil samples pre-entry and advising on soil storage through to the replacement of topsoil and assessment of soil conditions post completion.

We can provide aftercare plans following the return of land to a landowner or occupier with cropping and land management advice along with costings to aid negotiations for compensation.

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