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Value of hedges in storing carbon studied in soil project

THE ROLE hedges play in capturing carbon and storing it in soils is being investigated as Farming Connect gathers soil samples from across Wales in an initiative that will provide important benchmarking data for farmers.

Data collection for the second year of the Welsh Soil Project is underway, and this time soil samples have also been taken from land within a metre from field hedges, in addition to within-field samples.

Dr Non Williams, Farming Connect’s Carbon Specialist Officer, said the aim is to compare soil carbon stocks within fields and under woody vegetation.

“We often get questions from farmers about this, and we hope that the results of this project will provide them with the answers,’’ she said.

“Estimating the soil carbon levels by hedges will help to highlight their importance for climate change mitigation.’’

Farmers have a key role to play in tackling climate change and soils can play an important part in that.

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The Welsh Soil Project samples are being analysed ahead of Wales Climate Week in December.

Over 1,000 samples were taken from farms that are a part of Farming Connect’s Our Farms Network, which were then analysed for organic matter content and bulk density, as well as other measurements.

For uniformity, all samples were collected within the same period this autumn and from grass fields including permanent pasture, hay and silage fields, and reseeds.

“This project looks at how varying management intensities, along with geographical factors, are impacting soil carbon stocks across Wales.”

Soil was taken from multiple depths, from the top 10cm layer to a depth of 50cm.

Dr Williams, who is leading the project, is a speaker at a major soil science event in Belfast in December.

At the British Society of Soil Science and the Soil Science Society of Ireland Annual Conference, she will deliver a presentation on the preliminary results of the project.

Soil carbon and carbon in general are also themes at three Farming Connect Masterclasses taking place in February 2024.

Dr Williams, who will lead these workshops, said it will give farmers an opportunity to improve their understanding of the basics of carbon footprinting prior to carrying out a carbon audit for their farms.

“These interactive workshops will focus on breaking down the carbon jargon, allow farmers to learn about the significance of the carbon cycle to their farm, and how it can be influenced to help reduce the farm’s carbon footprint in the future,’’ she said.

The events will take place at Llety Cynin, St Clears, Carmarthenshire, on 6 February, at Elephant and Castle, Newtown, on 8 February, and at Nanhoron Arms Hotel, Nefyn on 20 February, all from 7.30pm to 9pm.

Further details on how to book a place can be found on the Farming Connect website.

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