TRUTH Project Progress

Year 1: January 2024 to January 2025

We will be holding a webinar to introduce the new BOFIN-led project called TRUTH (Thriving Roots underpinning total soil health) on 14 Feb at 08:30 AM. Join us to find out about how to be involved in the project as a Root Ranger, to ask questions of the experts on the team and hear more detail around the project from BOFIN and our project partners.

Project Plans

BOFIN will develop the Soil Circle as the knowledge cluster around this project of those with special interest, including scientists and members of the public who have opted in, share experiences and knowledge and help shape the project. The aim is to achieve a membership of at least 300. This will be established to exchange information, ideas and advice on improving soil/root health and disseminating information to the wider Innovation Community.

In addition, BOFIN will recruit Root Rangers who will be paid to carry out on-farm trials to inform SSM practices and to evaluate novel genetics and bioproducts. These farmer members will also be paid to lead communication and dissemination activity to encourage adoption of the commercial services. Click here to get involved!

A webinar is being held on 14 Feb at 8:30am to launch this exciting project – it will highlight how to be involved in the project as a Root Ranger, allow you to ask questions of the experts on the team and hear more detail around the project from BOFIN and our project partners. If you would like a recording of this webinar, please register for the webinar. We will then have a link sent out to you once the webinar has taken place.

Work Package 1

LEAD: University of Nottingham
KEY CONTACT: Craig Sturrock (craig.sturrock@nottingham.ac.uk)

Led by UoN, this will develop a platform for soil/root health measurement, which will include deployment of soil analysis tools including the PES sensor, analysis of soil/root cores using X-ray CT, and soil microbiome sequencing.

In addition, root samples will be taken to identify and quantify mycorrhizal fungi associated with crop roots. Root Rangers will be trained in taking soil cores and samples for off-site analysis, as well as in developing in-field SSM methods such as shovelomics. The platform will enable a farmer-led approach to evaluate novel genetics and bioproducts.

Work Package 2

LEAD: John Innes Centre
KEY CONTACT: Maria Hernandez-Soriano (maria.hernandez-soriano@jic.ac.uk)

Led by JIC, this work package builds on the findings of the WISHROOTS project and the potential of genetics to increase nitrogen use efficiency and root structure of wheat.

Commercial and pre-commercial wheat varieties with novel root characteristics will be selected and multiplied for use in on-farm trials. The Root Rangers will use the platform tools to assess differences in root growth and microbial activity in the rhizosphere.

The findings of the trials will help breeders and scientists identify phenotypic traits of interest and their associated genes.

Work Package 3

LEAD: BOFIN
KEY CONTACT: Tom Allen-Stevens (tom@bofin.org.uk)

Led by BOFIN, scientists will work with the Root Rangers to co-design experimental protocols and provide training. This involves the recruitment of up to 30 farmers for the on-farm trials.

The Root Rangers will conduct field trials with the deployment of conventional soil health tests and the soil and root assessment platform from WP1. Cutting-edge techniques, such as ADAS Agronomics and Hutchinsons’ Omnia Terramaps, will be employed to enhance analysis of data and improve granularity.

The on-farm trials will provide farmers with valuable new data on soil qualities, particularly microbial diversity and its interaction with crop roots.

Work Package 4

LEAD: PES Technologies
KEY CONTACT: Jim Bailey (j.bailey@pestechnologies.com)

Led by PES Technologies, this work package develops its sensor that detects volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and small molecular gases. This ‘smell fingerprint’ is captured and matched to provide more than 10 key biological and non-biological soil health indicators with a single test.

For TRUTH, PES will provide the Root Rangers with sensors and work with them to expand its capabilities so that it accurately measures microbial diversity and fungal:bacterial ratio. Microbiome sequencing by JIC will be used to train the PES sensor and validate those new capabilities.

The sensor will be launched commercially as an in-field tool for accurately measuring this expanded range of soil health indicators.

Work Package 5

LEAD: BOFIN
KEY CONTACT: Tom Allen-Stevens (tom@bofin.org.uk)

BOFIN leads farmer engagement and dissemination activities through press, social media and events. This includes establishment, development, promotion and maintenance of the Soil Circle, hosted with the Knowledge in Farming section of The Farming Forum.

The Soil Circle is a community that brings together specialist knowledge is soil and root health. It has its own identity, offering members a sense of belonging and connections to like-minded individuals. While anyone can view and ‘uprate’ the discussions, only Soil Circle members can post their specialist thoughts, offering a space for these to be valued. The resource area within the Soil Circle will be populated with easy-read information and resources on soil and root health.

With active involvement from the Root Rangers and TRUTH technical experts, the Soil Circle will become a support hub, providing advice, discussion and guidance on the PES Sensor and SSM practices.

Work Package 6

LEAD: CHAP Agri-Tech Centres
KEY CONTACT: Victoria Nash-Woolley (victoria.nash-woolley@chap-solutions.co.uk)

CHAP Agri-Tech Centres lead this work package, with a qualified project manager workingwith the project leads from each partner and liaising with the Innovate UK monitoring officer.This ensures milestones are met and outcomes are delivered within budget for the benefit of farmers.