Take time to test soil

Soil fertility and structure impacts crop yield and quality, so it’s essential that this vital asset is managed correctly. Get it right, and crops can be grown in a more efficient and sustainable way, while also supporting better livestock performance. Good management begins with a thorough soil assessment. Soil sampling can identify shortfalls or surpluses in key nutrients, and measure acidity. By knowing what nutrient levels are in the soil before sowing a crop, producers can make corrections that will help improve crop performance.

Soil sampling to measure fertiliser nutrients - ForFarmers UK

When sampling the soil, check for the presence of worms as an indicator of soil health. Worm populations are impacted by pH, waterlogging, compaction, tillage and organic matter management. Soil carbon and organic matter are also good indicators of soil health. Improving these parameters will enhance microbial activity, nutrient supply, water retention, and soil structure.

Checking and correcting soil pH will also ensure that nutrients are not ‘locked up’ and are fully available to a crop. It’s important to remember that soils will increase in acidity every year due to a build-up of hydrogen ions, which can lead to a reduction in soil fertility unless corrected. Optimal soil pH is 7, to maximise the availability of all soil nutrients.

Good soil management will also help maintain ground cover and organic matter, preventing erosion and runoff. With soil sampling now a legal requirement, producers should speak to their local ForFarmers’ account manager or forage specialist to discuss testing options.