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20th February 2017

Effect of Soil Structure and Field Drainage on Water Quality and Flood Risk

Soil Structure and Field Drainage ; Cover photograph courtesy of: Rebecca Hall, University of Aberdeen

This report provides a broad assessment of the state of soil structure and drainage on commercial farms in four selected catchments during autumn/winter 2015/2016.  We describe the policy implications of the findings. Similar UK studies are used to discuss our results. This project was commissioned by SEPA and addresses its Land Protection objective “make links between soil management and water protection measures to ensure maximum benefit for both soil/land and water quality” (SEPA, 2015). It also begins to address a need identified in the Supporting Material of the Scottish Soil Framework Directive (Scottish Government, 2008) to assess soil compaction in the field to assess its occurrence in Scotland and its effect on soil functions, and similar desires in the EU Soil Framework Directive (Loj, 2009).

We found severe soil structural degradation in 18% of topsoils and 9% of subsoils for 120 fields in four catchments across Scotland.