Then it is full steam ahead with all the spring crops, followed by, getting the first split of fertiliser out.
We attended many tillage seminars and conferences in January and the Teagasc National Tillage Conference had no less than 19 speakers. It was really good and at the end they had a new system whereby you could submit your question through an App on your phone.
This added a new dimension as you could see what other farmers were thinking on the big screen in front of you. It's always uplifting to meet up with other tillage farmers and hearing what's going on in other parts of the country.
One power point presentation in particular caught my eye at the Teagasc conference. It showed the ideal pH levels for growing crops and demonstrated that the more the acidity drops, the more dramatic the difference.
If your soil pH is 6 instead of 7 it is 10 times more acidic. I went home and opened up our soil samples. I have always known that this one number is probably the single most important factor to get your crops right.
We have taken more soil samples this year than any previous year which meant we were putting a smaller area in each box. This meant that each box was more precise than if we had put a bigger area in each box. The shock that we got was that all or most pH readings were high. We were going to spread lime over the whole farm, but now we need to be much more precise.
We split one 12ac field down the middle and took two samples. One sample had a pH of 7.5 and the other half was 5.8. When we used to plough this field the soil was very consistent over the 12 acres but the side with the lower pH always yielded less. It creates a real headache when it comes to spreading lime.
I know that if we had GPS maps we could precision-spread, but we don't so the lime will be spread by looking at the map and calculating where it's most needed.
Two samples came back with a pH of 8. If the scale works in reverse then this means that these two samples are 10 times more alkaline. This creates another problem as high pH can lock up nutrients and make them unavailable to the plants, even though the soil sample shows that they are there in the soil.
So my question is, how to lower the pH?
We have tried using urea in the past as this may slightly lower a pH. Is there something we can spread that has the opposite effect to lime? Any suggestions to email@example.com.
Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co. Kildare. Follow them on twitter P&H Harris @kildarefarmer.
For Stories Like This and More
Download the FarmIreland App