2 August 2002

Lime use fall putting UK productivity at risk

DECLINING use of lime is putting the future productivity of UK farmland at risk. Surveys show there is a widening gap between increasing off-take and reducing levels of inputs.

That is a recipe for trouble ahead, warns the Agricultural Lime Association. "We have seen a gradual year-on-year decline in the use of lime since the subsidy came off in 1976. But since the recent sharp drop in cereal prices the rate of decline has accelerated," says Lincs-based ALA member Stephen Hill of Singleton Birch.

"Most farmers acknowledge the importance of lime, but when searching for ways to cut costs it is tempting to target it for the chop. This is because unlike ammonium nitrate there is no immediate pay-back, its benefits come over several years. So it is the easy option."

But whilst there may be no immediately obvious effects on crops, it would be short sighted to continue to cut down on this vital input, he argues.

Once soil becomes acid it is a costly job to get it back to its full production potential. It is cheaper to continue to make regular small maintenance payments than having to face reduced crop yield and a big investment to restore the pH balance, warns Mr Hill. &#42