Test soils to boost crops and see rise in returns
Published 30/11/2011 | 06:00
As tillage farmers, we all know the importance of doing soil samples. Or do we? You may think that you know a field by looking at it, but in reality a soil test is the only way to find out what's going on in the ground.
It is very important to know your land; knowing what it needs and what it doesn't. It can save you as much as it can cost you on fertiliser, lime and trace elements.
If you can give your crops the best conditions to grow and yield, they are at an advantage straight away.
So a soil sample can make the difference between profit and loss. We are looking at what we can do now to check that we have what the crop needs in the spring.
Last year, all tillage farmers were informed that they had to have their whole farm tested for organic matter within two years. Organic matter can be defined as material that is capable of decay or the product of decay, or both. In other words, the straw and leaves that will rot down in the soil.
I was informed that the reason for needing this information was that, at a European level, they were going to look at all the countries that are in continuous crops to study them all.
I believe what prompted this was that parts of France and England are having problems with crop yield in areas where they have been growing continuous crops for decades. They think that these areas have low organic matter and if they bring the level up they will return them to good growing areas.
We do soil sampling for Teagasc and haven't seen any overall results on the organic matter levels in Ireland but from what I have seen in Co Kildare, I don't think we have a problem in Ireland. Even where organic matter levels seem to be low, we still are getting good yields.