So you have commissioned an Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) survey, forked out a small fortune for it and received the final report. The report concludes that your site is the grade you wanted. Fantastic! But how do you know if it is correct? Is your contractor telling you what is really there or are they telling you what you want to hear?
Here are a few points for consideration.
Is the surveyor really a surveyor?
An ALC survey should be undertaken by an experienced soil surveyor. Agronomists, land agents, agricultural auctioneers may know their stuff when it comes to all things agricultural and crop related, but soil survey for ALC is actually pretty specialised.
But they’ve done the BSSS ALC training course.
The course description contains the caveat “Completion of the course is not a certificate of competence to undertake ALC surveys. Competence in undertaking ALC surveys will require subsequent relevant survey experience”.
Even better: they’re chartered!
Chartership sounds impressive, but don’t be sold purely by the brandishing of “Chartered Soil Scientist” status when it comes to choosing your ALC surveyor. As above, ALC is pretty specialised, so a brilliant soil scientist may not necessarily be a brilliant surveyor.
Aside from qualifications, what about the report?
If the results of the survey are based on the findings of a “site walkover”, they are likely to have been based on a guess. A soil survey cannot be done properly without breaking ground, and there are minimum requirements for the numbers of observations that should be made for an assessment to be considered robust.
The established guidelines for ALC assessments specify that, among other things, current land use, crop yields, location and accessibility of land do not affect the grading. If a report downgrades a site based on such factors as “the gateway is too narrow for a combine to fit through”, “the field is triangular so cannot be cultivated easily” or “there are gaps in the hedge therefore livestock cannot be safely contained”, it is unlikely to be fit for purpose.
There are many companies and individuals out there offering ALC services and it can be difficult to know who is going to do a good job. For more information or for an initial opinion on an existing ALC report, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org where we would be delighted to assist.