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March 2018

Lime the Catalyst in Castlebaldwin

Glen McDermott the BETTER farm challenge representative for Sligo is tackling the poor soil fertility on his farm.  

All of the BETTER farm challenge participants face different obstacles as they try to increase the profitability of their farms and ultimately try to surpass the €1,250/ha gross margin target set by the programme. Glen’s biggest challenge is to grow and utilize more grass. Every extra tonne of grass utilised on a drystock farm increases net profit by €105.

At the beginning of the programme all farms were soil sampled and the soil fertility on this particular farm was on the floor. Soil pH varied from 5.67 to a worrying 4.8 and even walking across paddocks the level of moss in the sward was shocking. All ground got 2tonne of lime/acre. Grazing ground was covered in early spring and silage ground was hit after the first cut silage in June. The farm is predominantly index 2 for both phosphorous and potassium.

A year on and whilst Glen’s profit monitor hasn’t improved (as he is building stock numbers), the soil fertility on the holding most certainly has. The sward is much cleaner and even healthier to look at. His opening farm cover came in at 1,040kg DM/ha - a healthy bank of grass to have coming into the grazing season. When pH alone is corrected from a low baseline on any grassland, regardless of P and K status, grass production should increase by around 10% without any additional fertilisers or differing management.

Table 1. The soil fertility of 4 paddocks on the farm sampled in 2017 vs 2018.

Research carried out at Teagasc, Johnstown Castle has shown for every tonne of lime spread/acre an increase of .3 can be expected on the pH scale depending on soil type.

Glen is holding a BETTER farm event focusing on breeding and silage on 10th April.

 Glen and his son Dillon carrying out the first grass walk of 2018.