South West England Soil Discussion Group

South West England Soil Discussion Group

The South West England Soils Discussion Group (SWESDiG) was set up in 1975 to stimulate interest in the study of soils in the Region, and provide a means whereby individuals from different institutions and fields of activity can meet to discuss problems and topics of common interest.Membership of the group is free. Meetings are organised on an ad hoc basis on selected themes relevant to the wider study of soils, land use and the environment in the South West.

Group Chair: Dr Martin Blackwell

Group Secretary: Dr Rob Parkinson

Contact SWESDiG

Latest posts

Open Farm Sunday - get involved!

Dear South Western Soil Scientists,

Open Farm Sunday is happening on Sunday 10th June 2018.
“LEAF Open Farm Sunday, managed by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), is one of the farming industry’s biggest success stories. Since the first Open Farm Sunday in 2006, over 1000 farmers across the UK have opened their gates and welcomed people onto their farm for one Sunday each year. It is a fantastic opportunity for everyone, young and old, to discover at firsthand what it means to be a farmer and the fabulous work they do producing our food and managing the countryside.”

SWESDG Spring Meeting 2018 – Soil Structure (part 2)

Event date: 
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Event venue: 
Neroche Hall, Bickenhall, Taunton, Somerset, TA3 6TZ, United Kingdom
Event description: 

This meeting will build on the Autumn 2017 meeting where we looked at soil structure on light soils. Here we will assess soil structure on heavy soils at Bickenhall Farm.

Two assessment methods will be used to compare and contrast. These will be Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS) and Visual Soil Assessment (VSA).

Arrive at 10am

Lunch will be provided

Depart by 4pm

We will spend most of the day outside so bring sturdy shoes and clothes appropriate for the weather. You may also wish to bring a spade.

BSSS Members may attend the meeting FREE of charge whilst Non Members will be required to pay £10.00.

Please note that everyone attending the meeting will need to register in advance to enable us to accurately organise catering and seating.

REGISTRATION OPEN                

On booking you will be asked your level of experience in visual assessment and the aspect of soil science in which you specialise / are most interested in. This is so that we can form small groups with a range of experience and specialisms.

Looking back on March: An Update from Dan

Happy Springtime everyone,

Tunnelling a passageway through the soil, furnishing our beds and borders with elegance and vitality is a floral promise. A promise of longer days, and lighter evenings; a promise to banish the clouds and cast off the rain. This promise, once dormant under thick clods of earth, now stands tall and dainty; a yellow delicacy swaying to the music of Springtime...

Looking back on January: An Update from Dan

Hello everyone,

It feels like just a few days ago that I sat down and wrote my New Year’s ReSOILutions. However, a month has passed already! There’s already a fine film of dust over the Christmas baubles and though we gaze out onto frosty mornings with dreams of summer, we realize that Spring – that season of hope and renewal – will be around soon enough. I hope you’ve had a wonderful January.

Life in Earth: Soils, the forgotten science in ecology

Event date: 
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Event venue: 
Rothamsted Research, North Wyke, Okehampton EX20 2SB, UK
Event description: 


This conference, organised by the CIEEM South West England Section Committee in conjunction with The South West Soils Discussion Group (British Society of Soil Science), will look at the broad subject of soils from an ecologist's point of view, and ecology from a soil scientist's point of view. We are privileged to be able to hold the conference at the renowned Rothamsted Research facility at North Wyke, Devon - a world-leading, non-profit research centre that focuses on strategic agricultural and soil sciences.


Soil is fundamental to ecosystems but is often misunderstood or overlooked by ecologists. Soil erosion and other degradation are both a cause and consequence of ecosystem damage, with implications for ecosystem services, biodiversity and agriculture.

We have put together a programme of speakers to help ecologists gain insight into three aspects:

  • appreciating the  functioning of soils , both natural and cultivated, as important components of ecosystems; 
  • understanding and use of soils (natural and manufactured) in mitigation and ecological design (habitat creation, bioengineering, GI, etc); and 
  • the challenges of working with other professions – soil scientists, civil & agricultural engineers, land agents, landscape architects, contractors – to better understand and manage soil resources. 

Most of the speakers are from the South West region and will be presenting a South West perspective on the subject.

Who Should Attend?

This will be relevant to all ecologists involved in assessing ecological resources and potential impacts, mitigation and management of land resources.


BSSS annual meeting on World Soil Day : The 4 per mil initiative

SEESOIL are co-hosting this year's BSSS annual meeting (it is on our patch) on what the ‘4 per 1000’ initiative means for UK soils.
The ‘4 per 1000’ (4 per mil) initiative was launched at the COP21 in 2015, with the aim to slow down the increase in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 by annually increasing global soil organic carbon stocks by 0.4 % per year.
This initiative has sparked a mixed reaction to the feasibility of achieving this, and discussion over what this means for soil management.

SWESDG Autumn Meeting 2017 - Soil Structure

Event date: 
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Event venue: 
Seavingtons Village Hall, Water St, Seavington, Ilminster, South Somerset TA19 0QH, United Kingdom
Event description: 

The day will focus on the importance of good soil structure and use the Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS) methodology in the field.

10am – Arrival and coffee, ready to start by 10:30am

The morning will comprise presentations about soils of the area, VESS methodology and the importance of good soil structure

Lunch will be provided

In the afternoon we will visit Hurcott Farm to use the VESS method in the field

4pm – Depart

Bring sturdy footwear and clothes suitable for an afternoon outside. You may also wish to bring a spade.

BSSS Members may attend the meeting FREE of charge whilst Non Members will be required to pay £10.00.

Please note that everyone attending the meeting will need to register in advance to enable us to accurately organise catering and seating.

ONLINE BOOKING IS NOW CLOSED FOR THIS MEETING. However if you wish to attend please email as soon as possible.