This one-day course provides a concise technical overview of key factors pertinent to managing organic amendments application to soils as well as some case studies to demonstrate its efficacy on real life situations.

Sustainable intensification of agriculture as a concept aims to harmonise food production to feed a growing global population and ensure minimal damage to the environment. This is a challenging task but an essential one that will affect all of us. In order to achieve this, land managers need to be more efficient in managing water, soil and fertiliser resources. An approach to put this into practice is to increase our reliance on organic amendments in response to increasing fertiliser price and reducing supply of certain fertilisers (such as phosphorus). Organic amendments can provide a valuable resource of nutrients to meet crop requirements but needs to be managed in an efficient manner to ensure there is no compromise to yields.

At a glance

Course structure

This is a one-day short course which brings together technical expertise from leading organisations in the UK. The mode of delivery will be through a series of lectures and case studies involving both established and new insights (via research carried out at key organisations) on application of organic amendments to soil.

What you will learn

At the end of the course, delegates will be able to:

  • Identify available organic amendment supply, their nutrient contents and risks associated with their application to land
  • Explore available tools to implement proper management of nutrients in order to comply with current soil protection strategies
  • Implement suitable strategies to reduce pollution in soils taking into account the associated risks with applying organic amendments
  • Challenge current practices on nutrient management from organic amendments.

Core content

  • Introduction to sustainable intensification of agriculture – approach and its challenges
  • Nutrient cycling in soils – principles and soil/crop interactions to harness nutrient supply from organic amendments
  • Available options from various organic amendments and competition arising to manage supply and availability of land bank to maximise yield  
  • Strategies to reduce pollution – associated with farm waste management and Nitrate Vulnerable Zone
  • Challenges to current practice – yield plateau, phosphorus supply to meet crop response, soil tests for measuring nutrients.


Areas covered will include:

Introduction to sustainable agriculture:

  • What does it mean?
  • How can we approach it to tackle this challenge
  • Put forward organic amendment as one of the option but tie in with other more physical approaches such as water and tillage management
  • Explain about increase in N fertiliser linked with oil price
  • Peak phosphorus supply and how we can potentially run out of it in 50 years
  • What alternatives do we have to explore?

Introduction to nutrient cycles in soils:

  • Biogeochemical cycling of C,N,P,K, secondary and micronutrients in soils + how these vary with application of organic amendments
  • Factors that influence nutrient cycling in soils
  • How plants interact with the soil nutrient cycle
  • How can we improve plant efficiency in to increase nutrient uptake and minimise pollution.

Types of organic amendments and how its nutrient supply varies from inorganic fertilisers:

  • What is the amount of organic amendment available for application to land?
  • What are the types of organic amendments available for application?
  • Where do they originate from?
  • How can we best tap into the nutrient potential from organic amendments
  • When do nutrients from organic amendments become available?
  • Influence of soil microbiology on nutrient mineralisation process from organic amendments.

Available tools to implement proper management of nutrients from organic amendments:

  • Brief introduction to PLANET and ALOWANCE (Agricultural Landbank Capacity Estimator)
  • How to use these tools
  • Case study to demonstrate principles.

Strategies to reduce pollution:

  • Farm waste management plan
  • Use of soil map to demonstrate principles
  • Explanation of NVZ close period, Nmax concept
  • Risks e.g. heavy metals, organic micropollutants etc.

Challenges to current practice:

  • A debate will be organised on how current practices needs to be challenged
  • For instance the use of Olsen P where previous understanding of no crop response at high P indices does not hold true! Why is this the case?
  • The topic of debate will be focused on P as there is talk of a potential P vulnerable zone?

Who should attend

This one-day short course is suitable for those involved in agronomy, fertiliser production, soil management, policy making, regulation and farming etc.




This course is provided via the Agrifood Training Partnership (AFTP).


  • Dr Ruben Sakrabani – Senior Lecturer in Soil Chemistry
  • Prof Karl Ritz – Chair in Soil Biology
  • Dr Helen West (University of Nottingham) - Associate Professor in Environmental Biology
  • Dr Stephen Ramsden (University of Nottingham) – Associate Professor in Management and Director of University Farm
  • Prof Andy Whimore (Rothamsted Research) – Professor in Soil Science.


Multiple bookings £325 (more than 5 people).


Location address

The Crossways
Alconbury Hill
PE28 4JH

Read our Professional development (CPD) booking conditions.