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On-going projects

THYME: Improving soil quality to enhance climate change resilience

The
Challenge

About 90% of the land area within East Yorkshire is used for agriculture, and it comprises some of the most fertile farmland in the UK. The majority of this agricultural land is situated on low-lying floodplain susceptible to flooding. Climate change is expected to increase the magnitude and frequency of flooding in the UK, thus threatening our fertile farmland and future food security. If we are to maintain agricultural outputs, we must adapt to manage the effects of these floods on farmland and raise our resilience to flood events.

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The UK food and farming sector is worth around £108 billion Gross Value Added to the British economy*
*NFU, Contributions of UK Agriculture Report, 2017

The
Approach

Lead researchers

josh-ahmed rob-thomas chris-skinner dan-parsons ed-rollason-teesside

Project funded by

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Project partners

Future Food Solutions

Nomad Foods

Teesside University

Yorkshire Water

The University of Hull has made links with Sustainable Landscapes - an established partnership between Future Food Solutions and Yorkshire Water that was already working with farmers in North Yorkshire. The project's remit has since expanded to include activity with Nomad Foods' farmers in the River Hull catchment.

The Humber project is trialling methodologies to restore agricultural soils back to their natural functionality so they can soak up water, retain nutrients and host a greater biodiversity within the soil, with inherent benefits for food production.

THYME researchers from the University of Hull and Teesside University are conducting a range of field experiments that directly compare the effects of different land management strategies on the annual crop yield and on water and nutrient retention in soils. The team aims to test a number of approaches in one field with an area designated as ‘control’ where no interventions are made to normal management strategies. Each field segment will be equipped with spatially-distributed soil moisture sensors to allow continuous monitoring. Soil samples will be taken and the team will employ X-Ray CT scanning techniques to ascertain the soil structure to understand how soil structure changes in response to land management strategy.

thyme-soil-quality-fieldwork

Through the partnership working with Future Food Solutions, Yorkshire Water and Nomad Foods, the research team will be able to access historical data on soil moisture and crop yields, and potentially utilise an existing soil moisture sensor network.

The research team will monitor crop yields, comparing the treated and untreated ground and comparing both to historical data for those locations. Soil nutrients will be examined over a period of time and compared to baseline samples. Soil moisture retention will also be monitored throughout the project and compared to baseline data.

A cost-benefit analysis will also be conducted, to compare the benefits of adopting sustainable land management practices on society and the environment against the risks from flood damage and environmental degradation associated with current management strategies.

The Impact

It is envisaged that the project will improve food production efficiency and enhance soil biodiversity and flood resilience. The results will be used to demonstrate the multilateral benefits of enhancing agricultural soils for improved food security and alleviating flood risk. The study will provide critical supporting evidence for policy makers to justify investment in environmental stewardship that provides a range of socioeconomic and environmental benefits that ultimately make the UK more resilient to future climate change. We expect the economic benefits of adopting these sustainable management practices to be apparent especially when compared to the general daily management costs incurred under currently employed techniques.

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