Benefits of Silicon for Plant Growth:
Silicon is required by all plants in optimising a plants chlorophyll levels to optimise yields and
assisting in providing resistance against pest and disease. Silicon can only be used by plants when it
is present in a bioavailable form known as monosilicic acid.
A report published on Farmers Weekly details that “With enhanced natural defence capabilities and
strengthened plant structure, plants are better able to withstand stress and tolerate more extreme
weather conditions” and furthermore “Silicon nutrition enhances the passive defence pathway,
resulting in pest and disease reduction by 40-50%” and encourages the absorption of beneficial
elements such as zinc, calcium and nitrogen.
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Maximising the benefits from cover crops through species selection and crop management:
AHDB completed a project to measure, assess and quantify the impacts of the cover crops on soil
properties and on the performance of 2 subsequent crops. Cover crop can be effective at improving
soil functions by increasing soil nutrient and water retention, improving soil structure/quality,
reducing the risk of soil erosion, surface run-off and diffuse pollution by providing soil cover and by
managing weeds or soil-borne pests.
The trial looked at the performance of seven cover crop species (including cereals, brassicas,
legumes and ‘others’ – phacelia and buckwheat) and three mixes of these species, with an untreated
control (weedy stubble). The research highlights that on heavy textured soils cover cropping can
result in increased topsoil moisture content however late destruction <1 week prior to drilling
resulted in poor seed bed conditions and establishment of the following cash crop.
The report highlights the need for “understanding the effects of different cover crops on soil
properties, yield and other ecosystem services is essential to realise the potential benefits”.
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How the UK agricultural industry can support the transition to sustainable, regenerative
agriculture and net zero.
A report published by the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA) has called for greater collaboration
between major UK food retailers and manufacturers to address soil management throughout their
supply chains to meet Net Zero, biodiversity and sustainable farming aims.
The research, published ahead of World Soils Day weeks after COP 26 highlights agriculture’s role in
addressing the climate and nature crises. Speaking about the report, Callum Weir, Sustainable
Agriculture Specialist at WWF said: “The rationale for greater collaboration between businesses that
depend on soil for the products they sell couldn’t be more clear. Soil improvement is incremental,
non-excludable and reversible – the benefits are spread between farmers, land-owners, retailers,
manufacturers and the environment in general, while on the flip-side, decades of good work can be
undone in a very short space of time.
The report concluded with 5 recommendations to businesses:
a. Ensure you and your intermediates suppliers are not contributing inadvertently to increased soil
degradation and decline. Use all mechanisms (advisors, contracts, certification schemes) to embed
regulatory compliance and safeguards against soil-damaging practices into supplier relations.
b. Show your commitment is real, tangible, traceable and measurable. Develop metrics and
performance indicators that connect corporate regenerative ambitions with on-the-ground projects
- and regularly and publicly report on progress against them.
c. Make the most of available and future research. Ensure it translates into practice change on the
ground as widely as possible.
d. Be a catalyst for system-wide change. Spread ambition and best practice throughout the industry
both vertically – via intermediaries that source on your behalf - and horizontally to competitors and
hard to reach/invisible supply chains.
e. Anticipate and address farmer needs at a time of great uncertainty. Demonstrate alignment with
policy-makers, market forces and other drivers through whole system thinking, consistent metrics
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