Test for soil nutrients ahead of fertiliser

Farmers could be wasting money and time applying phosphate and potash to their fields without knowing their soil nutrient levels beforehand.

Results of an EBLEX project where over 1,000 farmers were offered free soil sampling, revealed only 9% of fields (based on 5,000 soil samples) were on target for phosphate (P) and potash (K).

About 29% of fields had high levels of P or K, with dairy farms showing on average 44% P and 37% K, meaning fertiliser applications could be unnecessary, expensive and increasing the risk of water pollution.

On the other end of the scale, about 43% of fields showed low P and K levels, which could affect yield quality and quantity. In addition, 45% of fields showed soil acidity – pH – lower than target, rising to 73% in upland farm samples.

EBLEX livestock scientist Liz Genever said: “These findings show that in many cases producers are not optimising the fertility of their soils.

“Standard soil tests are relatively cheap – around £10 a sample – compared with the potential savings that could be made, which could be as much as several hundred pounds. Farmers who are not regularly testing cannot manage their nutrients as effectively as those who are.”

For more information on nutrient management, see the EBLEX Better Returns Programme manual Improving soils for better returns.

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