IF you’re doing all you can to ensure your soil is healthy and fit for purpose, then it could be a candidate for the James Hutton Institute’s Best Soil In Show competition, which is now open for entries.

The Institute and partners NFUS and the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs are offering cash prizes in this year’s competition, as well as the Best Soil in Show trophy and a full soil analysis.

With increasing recognition that soil has to be functionally healthy for agriculture to be sustainable and that – more than ever – good, careful stewardship and management of the soils, including those under pasture, is essential for the future wellbeing of agriculture, the competition asks entrants what they are growing in the soil, the rotations they are operating and what they are adding to the soil: it's all about what you do with what you have got.

Grass pasture – as well as arable soils – are in scope, and the competition is open to all farmers across Scotland, with an additional category for Young Farmers. Judges will assess all entries on their physical and chemical properties and look at the husbandry as much as the inherent cultivability of the soil type, to identify the winner, to be announced on June 21 at this year's Royal Highland Show.

Professor Colin Campbell, chief executive of the James Hutton Institute, said: “Soil is dear to my heart and it worries me that its importance has been overlooked for so many decades. Best Soil in Show aims to highlight the importance of maintaining healthy soils and the many basic agricultural and ecological benefits they deliver.

“There is more to be done and we can do this by putting soil health at the heart of government policy. Right now, going through the UK Parliament is the Agricultural Bill 2017-19, which will for the first time put in ambitious measures and targets in place to preserve and improve our soil health. Our soil health is under threat and once it's gone, it's gone – we need to take action now.”

NFUS president, Andrew McCornick, commented: “Healthy soils are fundamental to sustainable and profitable farming, so NFUS is delighted to be supporting this very worthwhile competition – and in particular the category for young farmers, who will need the next generation of farmers and custodians of Scotland’s soils.

“Healthy soils are precious and vital to the future of our industry. I encourage NFUS members to get involved in this competition and show the good work they do to protect and improve their soils."

The closing date for entries is April 12.