Soil expert shares key to soil success at Groundswell

The principles of redesigning agricultural systems to regenerate soils, biodiversity and the bottom line are the same no matter where you are in the world.  It is how we interpret and apply them which changes, and this is what Groundswell is all about – exploring the nuances of regenerative approaches across the diverse landscapes of the UK.

Joel Williams Soil Health Educator Groundswell

Joel Williams, Soil Health Educator

Soil expert Joel Williams

Joel Williams is an independent plant and soil health educator and consultant. He has a keen interest in managing microbial ecology and mineral nutrition to optimise soil function, plant immunity and food quality. Joel works to integrate soil chemical and biological assessments, along with plant nutritional analyses as a joined-up strategy for managing crop production.

Diversity and regenerative agriculture

Diversity will be a key theme of Joel’s session ‘First principles’ at Groundswell Festival. With examples at both the field and landscape levels, he will explore how diversity of plant species is key, as seen by the multi-faceted role our ecological infrastructure – the flower strips, trees, shrubs and hedgerows – play in the ecosystem, and how we can harness their benefits as well as enhance plant diversity within production systems.

He will look at how plant diversity dilutes food sources for pests and diseases, enabling us to reduce our dependence on crop protection products. And how, through the variation in rooting depths and habits, plant diversity can lower the need for fertilisers.

Below ground, plant diversity has been shown to stimulate soil biology and improve soil structure, further improving nutrient cycling. With intercropping and diverse pastures, as well as buffer strips and ecological infrastructure being viable options, plant diversity becomes a central tool of redesigning our farming systems.

At Groundswell, Joel will be taking the conversation further in two integrated pest and disease management (IPDM) sessions. The first will focus on designing with diversity where he will talk about how an IPDM program makes other in-field strategies more likely to succeed. The second session will move onto the microbiome and highlight how beneficials that live around, on or in plants can either directly antagonise pests and disease or induce the production of defence chemicals within the plant.

Following Groundswell, Joel will be heading to Groundswell Outreach (GO) Falkland, a fringe Groundswell event with a regional focus in Scotland. Here, he will be discussing how we conceptualise ‘helping farming systems’, redesigning them and moving towards something more sustainable. As a result, the session at GO Falkland will also talk about the subtleties of philosophy around transition.

Whichever is right for you and your farm, regenerative agriculture is still an emerging concept and it takes an open mind, initiative and a certain amount of resilience to reimagine a landscape and its farms.

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