Farmers are set to benefit from a new soil testing service offering a better measure of soil organic matter, along with an easy to use index of soil life.
There is an increasing focus on soil health as farmers look to gain a better understanding of their soils to help drive yields and make better use of fertiliser inputs.
A key driver of soil health is the organic matter content and farmers are increasingly looking at ways to maintain or increase levels.
To help the farmer, Eurofins Agro has launched three new soil analysis services, including the detailed fertiliser manager option which offers a new approach to soil organic matter analysis.
Organic matter balance
The analysis not only gives a percentage organic matter, the report also predicts how much will be used up in that cropping season and the resulting level, says Dan Robinson, managing director of the firm’s UK division.
It also includes a value of organic matter from crop residue, thereby giving farmers an organic matter balance at the end of the cropping season. This is useful as farmers have an idea of how much manure to apply.
“For example, it may indicate that a farmer has to apply 1,055kg/ha of manure just to stay where they are for soil organic matter content,” he says.
It can also offer an estimate of the amount to apply if farmers want to raise soil organic matter, for example, by 0.1%.
Mr Robinson also points to the measure of quality, with an indicator of the proportion of dynamic and stable soil organic matter.
“The more carbon there is the more stable it is,” explains Arjan Reijnevekld, the company’s international soil product manager.
He believes farmers can use these measures to track progress over time or compare different fields to see if the carbon sink is working better or worse.
Another new service is the soil life monitor. It uses fatty acids, which are found in the cell membranes of living organisms.
“Different groups of organisms have unique compositions of these fatty acids,” he explains.
For example, the cell membranes of fungi consist of different fatty acids to bacteria.
In addition as they are degraded quickly in the soil, the analysis gives an indication of the amount of living biomass.
Looking to the future, the company is looking to further develop its organic matter analysis to give farmers a routine measure of the different fractions, such as lignin and chitin.
“This could help improve understanding of carbon storage in soil,” he says.
Three products are being made available to UK farmers for the first time:
- Fertilisation manager measures soil fertility. This includes the chemical values of macro and micronutrients in each soil sample. Soil pH and the overall structure of the soil is also analysed in conjunction with biological components, such as fungi and bacteria.
- Soil crop monitor offers farmers the most accurate means of testing soil during a growing season. This test can be requested as many times as a farmer feels is necessary to maximise the growth of a crop.
- Soil life monitor measures the biological soil quality, the soil life. It provides insight into the presence of different groups of micro-organisms in the soil.