BASIS to launch qualifications to enhance soil quality

With the Agriculture Bill set to reward farmers for ‘public goods’, such as healthy soils, BASIS is preparing to launch two new qualifications to help farmers.

The courses will arm the industry with knowledge and skills to enhance soil quality, biodiversity and sustainability.

Dr. Aliona Jones, BASIS technical manager, explained that both are due to start in early 2019 and will be set at two different levels. Candidates can choose the one they feel is most appropriate one for their needs.

‘Foundation in Soils’

Dr. Jones said: “The primary ‘Foundation in Soils’ qualification will help farmers and advisers to better understand the relationship between physical structure, as well as biological and chemical processes.

Farmers are increasingly finding that soil quality and productivity are complementary. So, the training will focus on how farming practices can positively and negatively influence a soil’s functionality.

“For example, it’s well known that the use of heavy machinery can lead to compaction, and overstocking grazing land can cause poaching. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that lower levels of stocking can beneficially return nutrients to the soil.”

Monitoring changes within the soil and assessing trends is another essential aspect of management that will be covered in the training.

‘Quality of soils’

The second qualification will build on the success of existing BASIS modules as well as the knowledge from the ‘Foundation in Soils’ course.

It will give further insight into improving the resilience of farming systems through increased understanding of the soil ‘ecosystem’.

“A fully functioning soil with appropriate structure, chemistry and biology will enable symbiotic interaction with plants.

“This improves resilience to machinery traffic as well as weather extremes, such as the cold spell and drought we’ve seen this year,” added Dr. Jones.

The new courses have come to fruition following a strong industry demand, with organisations such as the AHDB, the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) and ADAS all playing a key part.

AHDB knowledge exchange director, Dr. Susannah Bolton, explains that building trust in advice on best practice soil management is essential to drive forward uptake of new knowledge and innovation in agriculture.

“These qualifications will be vital in underpinning the advisory process, while ensuring that we’re working with the best possible understanding of soil management,” she says.

‘Foundation in Soils’

  • Level 4 (higher education) certificate accredited by Harper Adams University;
  • Four to five day short-course;
  • 1.5 hour examination time;
  • 25 question multiple choice paper;
  • Five question short answer paper;

‘Quality of Soils’

  • Level 6 (graduate) certificate accredited by Harper Adams University;
  • Five day short-course;
  • 2.5 hour examination time;
  • Six to 10 short answer questions;
  • VIVA examination to assess applied knowledge and understanding in a practical context.