Soils with similar characteristics and derived from similar parent materials are grouped together as a soil series. Four main soil series have been identified at Sparsholt. These are Andover Series, Wallop Series, Winchester Series and Charity Series.
The profile is essentially shallow, brown, flinty loam over chalk and typically it is associated with sloping ground. Usually it is under arable cultivation with a considerable local variation in soil depth.
The shallow Andover soils have a characteristically striped appearance under cultivation due to chalk being brought to the surface. The lower end of slopes have deeper phases grading into the Charity Series.
Productive capacity is limited by their depth and water holding capacity, although they are fairly drought resistant since roots can penetrate the soft moist chalk. They may set very hard in a dry summer, hindering autumn cultivations, especially after a grazed ley. They are usually deficient in potash.
Shallow layer of clay-with-flints overlaying chalk. It occurs typically on convex slopes at the edge of the Winchester Series and also in isolated patches on elevated land surrounded by Andover Series.
Profile shows brown or greyish brown clay loam to clay, very flinty overlying reddish brown flinty clay resting directly on chalk. Transitional between Winchester and Andover Series in character and potential production.
The profile shows brown flinty clay loam to clay, over flinty clay ranging from reddish brown to yellowish brown which will indicate drainage characteristics of the series. The thickness of the clay, the drainage characteristics and the lower base status (lower pH value) distinguish this from the Wallop Series. Liming may be necessary on the deeper profiles. Heavier to cultivate than the Andover Series but considered a good wheat soil.
Colluvial material derived from the chalk and clay flints resting on disturbed chalk or brown flinty clay mixed with chalk. Profile shows at least 375mm of brown loam, often flinty resting on disturbed chalk or brown flinty clay mixed with chalk.
Freely drained, soil depth favours a satisfactory moisture regime for crop growth on the Andover Series.
Sparsholt College has a cropping profile which provides for the needs of the livestock enterprises. Further land off-site provides additional forage supplies, arable cropping for income generation and enhanced fieldwork opportunities for students.
Crops include two-year grass leys for growing bulk hay and haylage crops, forage maize, lucerne and forage rye. The forage maize crop is used for feeding the dairy cattle and beef finishers. Where possible the College has linked up with commercial forage crop seed producers to provide demonstration days for farmers and growers.
Early maturing varieties suit the calving pattern of the dairy herd. Maize planting commences towards the end of April on land which has received farm yard manure application from the College dairy unit. The maize seed is usually coated with a standard seedling fungicide and Frit Fly treatment. Weed control is affected primarily through the use of residual herbicide with follow-up of tank mix products to eliminate nightshade weeds which escape and would be highly toxic to cattle. A residual herbicide is not used where a catch crop of grass follows maize. Harvesting of maize normally commences in mid-September depending upon the varieties grown and the season. Growing maize also creates field work opportunities for students such as muck spreading, ploughing, cultivation and drilling.
The College Farm has a far higher percentage of grassland than would be normal for this area of Hampshire. This is due to the number and variety of livestock enterprises required to support the students in their learning. The grassland can be classified into three broad types: long term, short term and permanent pasture. The short term ley, generally two years, is based upon Italian and Hybrid ryegrass. The utilisation of these leys is predominantly for early grazing by sheep and the dairy herd. These leys, given adequate rainfall, are capable of bulk silage yields of up to 12.5 tonnes of dry matter per hectare.
Long term leys are located closer to the dairy unit and form the basis of the spring/summer grazing area for the dairy herd, with any excess being eaten by sheep. The composition of these leys includes a wide variety of perennial rye grass which provide a steady level of grass production throughout the season and clover which helps to maintain palatability, feed value and fixes nitrogen. The permanent pasture is used for sheep and horse grazing.
The College herd has a paddock grazing system. Paddocks which get ahead of the cows are closed and cut for silage. The College takes great care to plan a programme of grass fertilising which pays due regard to the existing fertility indices in the soil, together with residue supplied by organic manures from the variety of livestock enterprises on the estate. The application of organic manure is scheduled according to the waste management plan. Programmes of fertility are also carefully matched to the species and health of the sward, in order that yield and quality are optimised with due regard to the potential hazards of excess fertilisers in the environment.
Lucerne is grown to provide quality forage for feeding to our dairy herd. Lucerne is high in protein (18-22%), drought tolerant and is cheap to grow. It requires no nitrogen fertiliser and only needs seeding once every 4 years.
Little Buckholt Farm
This 20 hectare farm is approximately 13 miles from the College and is owned by a member of the College staff. Previously a dairy farm, it is well fenced with adequate water troughs for each field. The College has an arrangement with the owner to rent the land and pay a small stock checking fee. This enables the College to reduce its stocking rates during the summer months, knowing that the stock are properly looked after. Any excess grass is cut for hay.
Farming Land at Winterslow
In 2012 the College acquired the tenancy on 100 hectares of arable land at Winterslow, near Sailsibury. The need for extra fieldwork opportunities had been identified and this block of land allows us to provide extra field scale tractor driving, as well as generating data for students to use.
In 2015 the farm was entered into the Higher Lever Scheme (HLS). The farm needs to have approximately 7% of its farmable area in conservation to meet both HLS requirements and to meet proposed changes to the single farm payment. Difficult to farm field corners were removed from cropping and planted with plants designed to feed birds and insects.
Some of the options considered to meet the entry level requirements of the scheme are:
To further enhance the farm, the following extra options are being considered to lift it to the higher level requirements: