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Soil Nutrition: What are the legal requirements?

Advice from our specialist Advice from our specialist13-3-2020
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A soil test is important for a number of reasons but are you aware that there is a legal requirement to test your soil, on cultivated land a minimum of every 5 years? 

You must plan in advance every application of organic manure or manufactured fertiliser to cultivated agricultural land to meet the soil and crop requirements and not exceed these levels.

Fertiliser planning needs to take into account the risks of pollution on your farm as well as the results of your soil tests.

Why is soil testing important?

  • Maximise crop production.
  • Protect the environment from contamination by runoff and leaching of excess fertilisers.
  • Improve the nutritional balance of the soil.
  • Save money and conserve energy by applying only the amount of fertiliser required.

Soil analysis will provide an indication of any nutrient deficiencies and any pH imbalance. This means that waste will be reduced by matching crop and soil requirements to fertiliser applications, resulting in less money being wasted by farmers on unnecessary fertiliser as well as less pollution.

The value of soil

  • The quality of home grown forages will be affected largely by weather but the nutrient content of the soil can have a major impact on yield but also considerably on quality. 
  • It’s living and breathing, affected by how we manage it and the crops and livestock systems we expect it to support.
  • By knowing what is in the soil prior to sowing any crop means that corrections can be put in place to grow the best crop possible. 
  • If the pH of the soil is not correct then a number of nutrients may be ‘locked up’ and not available to the crop. 
  • If the correct nutrients are not available in the correct quantities for the growing crop from sowing to harvest both yield and quality will be compromised.
  • By managing soil, crops can be grown in an efficient, profitable and sustainable way.
Why test your soil?

The influence of soil pH on nutrient availability

The pH of soil plays an important role in the availability of nutrients. A soil pH of around 7 is optimal for the maximum availability of all nutrients and is in line with the optimum pH for grass growth of 6 to 7. 

Liming is an important part of crop production and monitoring the soil pH should be part of an annual soil management plan with samples taken every three to four years to help to ensure soil pH is kept at an optimum. 

Every year there is likely to be an increase in acidity from the build up of hydrogen ions in the soil, which leads to a reduction in soil fertility unless corrected. There are three ways of correcting the soil pH depending on whether it requires a fast acting short term solution or slower longer term solution.

Bulk lime – Long term solution lasting several years, which works best if incorporated into the soil. 

Granular lime – Short term solution using natural calcium carbonates which has a neutralizing value.  The smaller, more uniform particles break down more quickly so is faster acting. 

Physiolith – A soil conditioner which optimises soil pH locally for improved nutrient uptake by stimulating plant rooting. Helps provide a short term pH correction.

Worms in the soil

The presence of worms in the soil are an indicator of soil health. They are impacted by pH, waterlogging, compaction, tillage, rotation and organic matter management. Worms improve plant productivity and are responsible for engineering the soil environment.

For more information

For more information about soil analysis or maximising your forage output please contact your local account manager or contact us here