Stabilising lowland peat soils
Funding sources: NERC, G’s Growers Ltd.
Background: The lowland peat soils of the East Anglian Fens are among the UK’s most productive agricultural land. They are also extremely vulnerable to wind erosion, with the strongest ‘Fen Blows’ moving enough soil to obscure the landscape from view (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNCXht6D_bs). As a result, soil loss is a pressing concern for farmers in the region and we are working to identify mitigation options.
Soil stabilisers are polymers which bind soil particles together and have shown promise for reducing erosion losses on mineral soils. However, to our knowledge they have never before been tested on peat soil. The hope is that this we can identify viable options to assist farmers with managing wind erosion and help protect these valuable soils.
A range of soil stabilisers exist which work through different mechanisms, so we are evaluating the efficacy of several different options on peat soil. We brought soil from the Fens to Henfaes Research Station in order to set up a controlled experiment. Soil surfaces representative of field conditions were constructed in plastic trays and treated with the soil stabiliser products.
Measurements of erosion were made using a PI-SWERL (Portable In-Situ Wind Erosion Laboratory) provided for the work by the University of Oxford. The PI-SWERL uses a spinning ring to generate erosive forces and measures the resulting dust concentrations to give an insight into erosion effects. Its portability and capacity to make many measurements in a short space of time make it the perfect tool for a trial like this.
- To better understand the factors influencing erodibility of lowland agricultural peat soils
- To establish proof of concept for the use of soil stabilisers to mitigate wind erosion losses from these soils
- To evaluate a range of soil stabilisers and identify promising options
Collaborators: Professor Giles Wiggs (University of Oxford), Professor Chris Evans (UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)