Portnellan Farm was declared the Best Soil winner jointly by Dr Aileen McLeod MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform and by European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan.

Portnellan Farm, which occupies about 230 acres on the south eastern shore of Loch Lomond and has been owned by the Scott-Park family for nearly 60 years, was first announced as winner of the contest’s new Organically Managed category by Chris Walton, Agricultural Advisor for Soil Association Scotland, and later received the overall 2015 award from Mr Hogan and Dr McLeod.

The Young Farmers category was awarded to Forfar JAC member Douglas Greig – a 17-year old from Tealing by Dundee and winner of Best Soil in Show 2014. Scott Wilson, National Chairman of Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs presented that accolade.

Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “I wish to offer my congratulations to the winners and to all who took part in the Best Soil in Show competition. Farmers are custodians of the soil, and the Best Soil in Show award is thus a great opportunity to reward farmers who treat our soils in the most effective and sustainable manner. I welcome the focus on soil quality, especially at a time when we need to raise awareness of threats to soil sustainability across the EU.”

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Minister Dr Aileen McLeod said: “Soils are one of Scotland’s natural assets, a resource which provides a number of vital benefits essential to society and our economy; entire ecosystems depend on it and it is a key part of the success of our food and drink sector and a crucial sink for damaging greenhouse gases. These awards demonstrate good practices in soils management. I congratulate both winners of the Best Soil in Show award, which recognises their efforts in managing our soils skilfully, now and for the future.”

After commending the winners, Professor Iain Gordon, Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, added: “Scotland has a long tradition of excellent soil science. We’re recognised around the world for not just this science but how it’s applied to support decision making by governments, industry and farmers. Together with farmers, growers, policy makers and agencies the James Hutton Institute aims to make the best of our soils to help to deliver sustainable economic growth in Scotland though innovation, research and application of the new tools and advice.”

Chris Walton, Agricultural Advisor, Soil Association, said: “We rely on soil for so many things. Healthy soil has a positive impact on our food and farming, from improving nutrition, to generating greater yields and making land more resilient to the risks of floods and droughts. There is still more to be learnt about the interactions of soil biota and soil organic matter, but this award, and the work of the James Hutton Institute, are making sure soil is given the recognition it deserves. Everyone who entered has shown fantastic support for our soils. I’m especially pleased to present the first award for the Organically Managed category to Portnellan Farm, and even more pleased that they’ve won the overall Best Soil award as well.”

SAYFC National Chairman Scott Wilson commented: “Understanding the land that we work is fundamental in developing and improving our output. It is vital that we continue to work with stakeholders to provide opportunities so members can get access to the data and resources they need to better understand our soils. This is the second year we have worked with the James Hutton Institute and we are delighted to see that once again Young Farmers were keen to enter, especially as 2015 is the International Year of Soils.”

The importance of good soil management was highlighted by the closeness of the result between the conventional and organic category winners. Dr Jason Owen, soil scientist at the James Hutton Institute and member of the Best Soil in Show judging panel, commented: “The competition was very close receiving soil samples from across Scotland managed both organically and conventionally.

“After considerable deliberation the panel chose a soil with excellent structure in large part due to its organic matter content, thus making it resistant to erosion and degradation, key attributes with current pressures on soils, and ensuring adequate drainage. Furthermore, data obtained from chemical analysis indicated a balanced nutrient content, neither excessively high nor very low, applicable to agricultural soils.’’

On behalf of Portnellan Farm, David Scott-Park said: “We were surprised and delighted to hear that Portnellan's soil has won Best Soil in Show. Portnellan has been farmed organically for 15 years and it's very satisfying to think that organic principles have supported healthy soil, its trace elements and micro-organisms.”

Young Farmers category winner Douglas Greig said: “I have done my first year at college and have completed my National Certificate in Agriculture. I was surprised to win the Young Farmers category this year due to the field being at a higher altitude from the rest of the land we have on the farm and because of how light the soil was in the field.”

It is the third time the James Hutton Institute has run the Best Soil in Show competition and this year saw the institute join forces with Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC) and new partner Soil Association Scotland. More than 30 samples from all across Scotland were judged on compositional, structural and chemical criteria, in a drive to highlight the importance of maintaining healthy soils and the role played by land managers.

The James Hutton Institute has over 90 years’ experience in soil and crop research and also hosts Scotland’s National Soils Archive, which is a reference to the state of the soils in the past and is used to test new analyses and monitor changes in soil over time. To make this data available to land managers, farmers and the general public, the institute has developed two apps (SIFSS and SOCiT) and the website www.soils-scotland.gov.uk in partnership with Ricardo-AEA for the Scottish Government.

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