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.
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.