Although frequently out of sight, everything in our lives is underpinned by soil — our roads, our homes, the food we eat, and the water we drink. At the Royal Highland Show (18-21 June 2015), and as part of the International Year of Soil and Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, the James Hutton Institute will showcase the contribution our science and research makes to the continuing success of Scottish farming, food and land-based industries.

The Institute is again joining forces with the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC) and new partner Soil Association Scotland in a quest to find the Best Soil in Show; this time an Organically Managed category has been added, with an extra trophy to match. This year’s winners will be presented by Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Dr Aileen McLeod MSP, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.

Colin Campbell, Director of Science Excellence at the James Hutton Institute, said: “The point of Best Soil in Show is to highlight the importance of maintaining healthy soils to ensure not just productivity but also the other functions soil performs such us protecting biodiversity, the food chain, carbon storage and the quality of our water supplies. Soils deliver many basic biological and ecological benefits and raising awareness will help land managers to understand the characteristics and condition of their soil to make informed decisions about its management.”

Over 30 samples from all across Scotland - either conventionally or organically managed - have been 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 Best Soil in Show asks entrants what they’re growing in the soil, the rotations they are operating and what they are adding to the soil.

The importance of soils as our most treasured resource will also be demonstrated by our exhibits and land maps, as well as by a new Android-based barley farming game developed by the Institute with Abertay University students.

To find out what kind of soil you’ve got and to learn how to get the best out of it, visit our marquee on Avenue Q where scientists will be on hand to answer questions and tell visitors about the practical applications of our current research. From the countryside to your kitchen, the difference our work makes is all around us.

Children attending the show can get stuck into fun activities to help them find out about how soil keeps the planet alive at our stand in the Children's Discovery Centre.

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 in partnership with Ricardo-AEA for the Scottish Government.

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