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Introduction to Agriculture: Soils & Weeds Training Day

Cohort 3 AgriFoRwArdS CDT students were invited to attend Riseholme Campus to undertake a two day training session ‘Introduction to Agriculture; challenges and opportunities’. This session provides the first of a two day introduction to the role of current technologies in agriculture as well as hands on experience to help ground student research in real challenges and opportunities.

The first day of the session took place on 31st May, and covered the broad topics of weeds and soils with Simon Goodger and Iain Gould respectively. The second day of the session is planned to take place mid July.

Morning Session: Grasses with Simon Goodger

The first half of the day was hosted by Simon Goodger, and consisted of weed identification, biology, recognition and control. Theoretical discussion was based around germination, emergence (patterns and time of year), as well as recognition of grasses and common species. Weed control ranging for herbicides to natural management were also presented.

A short break was then provided with refreshments and then we went into straight into the field and tried applying what we had just learnt for ourselves on weed and grass identification. It is not as straightforward as first thought!

Simon Goodger presenting different types of grasses in the Riseholme walled garden.
Simon Goodger presenting different types of grasses in the Riseholme walled garden.

Once we had tried for ourselves to identify grasses in their natural environment, Simon presented the group with a challenge of identifying 18 samples of grasses taken earlier in the day.

This was pretty tricky and a 100% perfect score has only been achieved once before by our very own Roopika and Karoline.  The group was split into eight groups and two groups ended up achieving a 100% score! This led Simon to declare a run off and they both went for broke on 3 further samples that they had not yet been presented. Both groups (group A: Rachel, Niko and Sam; and group B: Kyle and James) got every single sample correct! Both declared joint winners at this stage!

Afternoon Session: Soils with Iain Gould

Once the team had broken away and had a lunch the program recommenced with Iain Gould as our guide. This part of the day focused on soils, their use and impact in the environment and how to manage them to ensure sustainable crop development. This began with a theoretical overview of why soils are important, the ranges of soils and why certain crops are grown in certain places; for instance certain parts of the UK are used as pasture land as they would not be suitable for arable produce.

The second part of the afternoon consisted of a hands on practical session identifying different soil types taken from around the Riseholme campus. Naturally, Kyle and James jumped at the chance to get involved and get their hands dirty!

Soils practical session: Kyle (left) and James (right) identifying soil types
Soils practical session: Kyle (left) and James (right) identifying soil types

Five samples were prepared and the previous eight teams were brought back together to identify the soil types. Soil itself can range from sandy to silty clay and several types in-between (tastes, texture, smell and colour all give hints as to the type). The teams were then asked to identify what crops would be suitable to grow in each identified soil type. The battle was on as both previous teams who scored 100% were also keen to do the same. Some how, they did, again achieving a perfect score!

After the practical soil session, both Simon and Iain ran a final test for both parts of the training day. This was informal (but moderated) and a good way to really test our new skills. Every team did really well but again, Rachel, Niko and Sam along with Kyle and James outperformed. However, when the seed hit the soil, Rachel, Niko and Sam went the full distance with almost a perfect score, just inching out Kyle and James.

The day went pretty quickly and was over in a flash. Although the weather was gloomy, the group said that the session was extremely worthwhile and that they had learned a lot from attending. Both Simon and Iain were commended on their lecture and presentation styles and thanked for sharing their expertise with the group. Overall, the group really enjoyed the day and took a lot away from it. Every noted that they are really looking forward to the final session in mid July.

Cohort 3 student, Garry Clawson said;

The Introduction to Agriculture; Opportunities and Challenges (Soils and Weeds) training day was a completely different experience than I first thought it was going to be. I had heard from previous cohorts that it was a really good session but I wasn’t sure how to was going to be structured.  

From the opening few minutes I was completely blown away by the depth of knowledge of the trainers (Iain Gould and Simon Goodger) had for their respective disciplines.

We were able to get our hands dirty identifying soil types and had our practical skills tested by identifying over 18 weed types from a theoretical lecture earlier in the day. Both Iain and Simon made the day extremely engaging and made the training relevant to our own research. It was a great day, and it was a pleasure to meet Iain and Simon.

Thank you to Iain Gould and Simon Goodger for being such hospitable hosts and making the day extremely enjoyable, interesting and rewarding. Thank you to April Walker for making the session available to the Cohort 3 year group.

If you share a passion for agriculture and technology then go to our AgriFoRwArdS CDTwebsite to see more about the research we do, how you can be involved and how to apply to be a student in the program.

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