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Now is the Time to Spread Lime!

By Sean Doorley, Teagasc Beef & Sheep Adviser, Longford.

 

Autumn is considered a good time of the year to spread lime on farms. Lime is a natural and cost-effective soil conditioner, and corrects soil acidity by neutralising acids present in the soil. This allows the soil biology and earthworms to thrive and break down plant residues, animal manures and release nutrients required for healthy plant growth. By neutralising soil acidity, the availability of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulphur (S) and calcium (Ca) increases. The optimum pH (a measure of acidity) for grassland is between pH 6.0 to 6.3. A soil test is the best indication of the lime requirement of a soil. Despite the importance of lime, current indications show that a large proportion of both grassland and tillage soils now require lime. For example, soil samples analysed by Teagasc show that on average in 2015, 65% and 55% of grassland and tillage soils are below the optimum pH. When the pH of grassland soils is maintained close to the optimum range, an increase in grass DM production of at least 1 t/ha/year can be achieved. In addition to P and K release from the soil, N supply worth up to €80 euro may also be achieved, boosting spring growth in particular. If this extra grass production is utilised by the grazing livestock it has the potential to reduce farm feed bills by at least €181/ha/year.

Your plan of action should be as follows;

  1. Carry out soil testing.
  2. Plan to apply lime every year to a proportion of the farm.
  3. Apply on your best fields first to get them growing as much grass as possible.
  4. You can apply anytime of the year, but Autumn is best, especially for silage fields and when Urea is intended to be spread the following spring. Excess lime in silage can affect preservation when lime is applied in Spring.
  5. Identify windows of application based on weather or soil conditions.
  6. Plan financially for lime to spread costs over a number of years. Lime cost €25/acre Lime applications give a 7:1 return on investment.

 

Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. They have offices based in Roscommon Town  (Tel: 090 6626166), Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160) and Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021. www.facebook.com/Teagascroscommonlongford/