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Soil Health; A Living Perspective

Joel Williams BDA conferenceOptimising Soil Management for Agricultural Productivity and Ecology (6 BASIS points; 1LP, 2E, 1GM, 2N)

with Joel Williams

Date to be confirmed

Venue to be confirmed

This event is a comprehensive full day presentation, suitable for both commercial farmers (including but not restricted to organic producers) and those concerned with home/community production.

Joel's cv is impressive and extensive (see his profile for greater detail), but in short, after focussing more strongly on soil chemistry and nutrient balancing in Australia he worked with Elaine Ingham at Laverstoke in the UK, inverting the emphasis and focussing more strongly on optimising the soil biology with a reduced weighting to mineral management. Now he tends to take a middle road but is happy to deliver with whichever emphasis the audience prefers. He is particularly interested in the links between nutrition and pest and disease pressure, and how nutrient corrections when supplemented with biological protection can be used to manage insect and disease problems. After some time back in Australia, he returned to England and intends to again, but is currently based in Canada for a couple of years.  Participants attending both have commented that this workshop was a good foundation for the Stewarding Your Soil course, which provides more practical elements related to making good compost and using microscopes; we plan to deliver similar courses in Spring 2018.

Joel was recommended to us by one of our farmers in the south-west a few years ago and and has proved popular since, with AHDB and other organisations frequently commissioning him to do shorter presentations for their audiences.

Joel Williams 2

Here are some of the things people said about the initial day we ran in February 2015 (and they only get better!):
"Superb course, would love to learn more"
"A well structured, interesting and inspiring day"
"It was a really interesting, informative and inspiring course... I'll definitely be putting some of what I have learned into practice both at home and at..."
"Really interesting and understandable talk on soil that actually helped me understand what to look for practically and get enthused about fungi!"
"A big subject nicely broken down into nicely digestible chunks"
"Very interesting/exciting - even for the amateur (I thought it may well go over my head, but I took in a lot)"
"Quality, trustworthy information delivered in a very understandable way.  Clarified a lot of the mysteries of soil biology"
"Excellent overview of soil biology and how to achieve better microbial health.  Relevant for all audiences interesting in farming."
"Absolutely fantastic day! Well worth the trip from Aberdeen" (and that was to South Devon...)
"Highly informative... Well structured... Applied knowledge..."

And here are some links to media articles about Joel/the day.

Proposed Timetable

  • Introduction: The Living SoilJoel Williams roots
    • Defining a healthy soil in the context of soil chemistry, physics and biology.
    • Introduction to the key groups of organisms in the soil ecosystem.
    • Functions, roles and interactions of life in agricultural soils.
    • Understanding the role of soil biology toward nutrient supply and crop production.
    • Nutrient cycling, availability and extraction by plants.
    • Ecological Succession and fungal:bacterial balance.
  • Soil Carbon: The centrepiece of soil health
    • Photosynthesis, root exudates and rhizosphere interactions.
    • Biological link to soil carbon sequestration, soil structure and nutrient acquisition.
    • Mycorrhizal fungi, glomalin, aggregation and disease suppression.
    • Supporting mycorrhizal fungi via management of environment, agronomics, rotations, inoculations, green manures and avoiding practices that suppress them.
    • Soil disturbance – cultivation and no-till, impacts on carbon cycling, aggregation, how to offset negative effects of tillage to support soil life.
  • Making the most of soil: Unlocking soil nutrients and improving input efficiency
    • Leveraging existing soil fertility and optimising purchased inputs.
    • Understanding total, exchangeable, soluble nutrient pools.
    • Nutrient behaviour in soils; nutrient synergies/antagonisms.
    • Cover crops and green manures – diversity and digestion.
    • The role of carbon-input complexes in improving input efficiency and protecting soil life.
    • Balancing long term soil restoration and short term cropping with fast and slow release inputs.
    • Biostimulants, biofertilisers, chemical inputs – effects on soil biology and crop quality.
    • The biological link to foliar applied inputs – nutrition, photosynthesis and root exudates as drivers of soil health.
  • Composts and organic manures: stabilising nutrients in the landscape while optimising crop supplyJoel Williams soil health
    • Composts vs manures.
    • The compost process – C:N ratio, microbial changes over time.
    • Composting summary – feedstocks, temperature, moisture, oxygen, turning.
    • Pile construction – practical account of how to make compost for soil application – windrow and static piles.
    • Compost maturation and using finished compost.
    • Manure applications, nutrient content and supplementing soils with additional nutrients.
    • Practical manure management and compost making on a time budget.
    • Compost extracts.
  • Plant Health and Integrated Pest Management
    • Rethinking minerals and microbes – optimising photosynthesis, crop quality and pest and disease resistance – are we ‘thinking’ the right way about plant health and pest problems?
    • The management of disease, insects and weed pressure as an integrated nutritional and biological approach toward plant health.
    • Disease management and novel approaches to managing plant immune responses – biostimulants, bioinoculants, compost extracts and key disease fighting nutrients – Si, Ca, B, Cu, S, K.
    • Plant health and nitrogen management – not enough or too much?
    • Plant nutrition – functions of essential minerals, nutrient mobility, deficiency diagnosis.
    • Plant sap analysis – brix, pH, K+, NO3-.
    • Weeds as indictors, fungal:bacterial ratio, detoxifying herbicides.
    • Integrating a holistic picture of soil health and plant health into a broader strategy of sustainable production.

Joel on Video



Independent individuals: £85;
Professional (land managers, advisors, etc.)/representatives of organisations: £135


If you are looking for low-cost accommodation, Haye Farm Sleeping Barn is a half hour drive away and has availability both the night before and the night after the event, with beds in a shared room from £20 per night (bring your own bedding or there is an additional charge to hire it).

To book please email Jenna on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
For general enquiries contact Natasha: 07866 674205 or