South East England Soil Discussion Group

South East England Soil Discussion Group

The South East England Soils Discussion Group (SEESOIL) is a vibrant group.

Dr Jack Hannam, Cranfield University – Chair

Dr Martin Lukac, University of Reading  – Vice Chair

Dr Elena Vanguelova, Forest Research – Tree Planting Coordinator

Dr Tom Sizmur, University of Reading – IYS2015 Coordinator

Julian Gold, Hendred Farms


Latest posts

Soils In Practice - South

Event date: 
Thursday, November 14, 2019
Event venue: 
Russell Smith Farms, Duxford, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom
Event description: 

Farmers Weekly’s Soils In Practice is returning for two one-day conferences.

Soils in Practice brings together experts and industry professionals from across the UK agricultural sector, providing a platform to discuss the latest advances in boosting soil fertility and best practice in soil management.

The event aims to help farmers understand some of the practical steps that can be taken to measure and promote healthy soil in a sustainable farm setting.

Experts will present interactive theoretical and practical sessions on topics including: measuring soil components, nutrient management and pest mitigation, cover crops, organic matter utilisation and the likely implications of incoming legislation on soil health.


The original part of estate, 350-acre College Farm, entered the Smith family in 1938 as tenanted land and has been in the Smith family ever since. Land acquisitions and tenancies have seen it grow to its current size of almost 3,000 acres surrounding the south Cambridgeshire village of Duxford.

The current farm owner and manager, Robert Smith, joined the business in 1975 and has overseen the transition from a 1,000 acre cereal farm to an enterprise with a significant focus on vegetable production. the farm still grows 1,000 acres of wheat but now also includes 350 acres potatoes and 100 acres of onion which are sold to all the major supermarkets.

Organic Production

Since 1998, the farm has grown its organic production to over 400 acres, much of which is sold to Waitrose. This learnings from this change has led to reduced chemical use on the conventional, non-organic crops and the farm is keen to share these lessons with other farmers.


The majority of land is free-draining and sits on light sandy loam soil overlying gravel or chalk, with small pockets of clay throughout the farm. Minimal tillage is carried out on soils growing cereals and stale seedbeds are used to grow the farm’s organic produce, for potatoes and sugar beet deep cultivation is emplyed. To support the increased vegetable growth, the farm has invested in an extensive irrigation system comprising several on-site reservoirs and 28km of underground water mains.

Research & Innovation

Research and innovation are vital for the business and building strong relationships with the UK agricultural industry has meant that science can inform day-to-day farming practice. KWS and RAGT have research offices on the faarm and Syngenta and Bayer both run various crop trials on-site.

Robert is also a co-founder of AgriTech East, current member of Cambridge University agri-tech group and has invested in several agricultural technology start-ups including artificial intelligence company Hummingbird Technologies.


Environmental accountability and sustainable production are central tenets of the way Robert wants the farm to operate and is part of various steweardship and monitor farm programmes. They are a LEAF and Waitrose demonstration farm and 5% of the farm area is counted as higher level stewardship land.


• 1,000 acres of wheat                     • 300 acres of sugar beet
• 400 acres organic oats                  • 100 acres of onions
• 350 acres of potatoes •

For full details and to book your ticket

SEESOIL Farm Visit to the Hendred Estate

Don't forget to register for the SEESOIL Farm Visit to the Hendred Estate taking place on Tuesday 17th September.

The aim of the day is to view and discuss the soil friendly farming techniques on Hendred Estate and use this as a background for knowledge sharing amongst scientists/Researchers and farmers, regarding any aspects of soil management /regenerative agriculture/climate change mitigation that attendees wish to discuss.


SEESOIL has set up a new event for its members.

Taking place on Tuesday 17th September at the Hendred Estate, near Wantage, the day includes a tour of the farm, lunch and the opportunity for discussion.

For full details and to register please see the webpage

Members are FREE

Non-Members are £15:00

Please note: All attendees MUST register online as places are limited.


SEESOIL Farm Visit to the Hendred Estate

Event date: 
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Event venue: 
Hill Farm, St Mary’s Road, East Hendred, Wantage, OX12 8LF, United Kingdom
Event description: 

Come and visit the farm managed by SEESOIL council member and Soil Farmer of the Year, Julian Gold.

The day will begin at 10:00am and consist of:

  • A tour of the farm
  • A networking lunch
  • The opportunity for open discussion on aspects of conservation agriculture, practical soil management, and soil organic matter



BSSS Members: FREE

Non-Members:    £15


June 2019: An Update from Dan

I am writing this on one of those days when the skies decide to ‘spring clean’ the Earth. Strong gusts are vacuuming the dust from the country lanes that run like skirting boards around green carpets of cropland and pasture. Clouds unite to form impenetrable ceilings of lead from which millions of droplets are preparing to polish the rooftops. As I write, my train carriage window is becoming freckled with a shimmering galaxy of watery stars. Is there anything more inspiring than a clouded day?

Open Farm Sunday - Can you help with these two requests?

We have received an enquiry in the office for assistance with Open Farm Sunday plus a further one via Twitter.

Are you able to help with either?

Please contact Leila Froud in first instance if you think you can help at Ben’s event.

Dear Madam/Sir,

I'm writing to ask whether you would be able and willing to support our family farm in hosting the general public for the Open Farm Sunday initiative to be held on 9th June.