Compaction may reduce the amount of water held in lower topsoil

Wet ground might not be holding as much water as it seems to, according to the government advisory body DairyCo.

Its Grass Group conducted experiments on a recent farm walk

in Somerset, attended by regional DairyCo officer Piers Badnell and an Environment Agency representative, Richard Smith.

They found that although the top few inches of soil had been saturated by winter rain, the lower topsoil and the clay subsoil was relatively dry, due to soil compaction at varying depths, restricting vertical drainage.

Mr Smith said one way to improve soil structure would be to grow a crop such as red clover.

"Red clover has long tap roots that can reach down into the subsoil.

"These will draw water out of the soil, which will help to create cracks and fissures later in season.

"This will improve soil structure and drainage," he explained.

The farmers organised an experiment in a field due to be "subsoiled" – broken up mechanically.

This year, half of it will also be planted with turnips, to see if their tap roots make an additional improvement.

Results will be checked in September.