Planning and priming our soils for the year ahead
Over the last month weather conditions have reduced any opportunity in the fields to get some winter ploughing done. Soils are saturated. Wait until soils are dry enough before carrying out field operations such as ploughing, advises Mark Plunkett, Soil & Plant Nutrition Specialist, Johnstown Castle
Over the last month weather conditions have reduced any opportunity in the fields to get some winter ploughing done. As I write soils are saturated and field operations will be limited until soil and weather conditions improve. Best to wait until soils are dry enough before carrying out field operations such as ploughing.
Now is a great time to look at the farm fertiliser plan and identify which parts of the farm need new soil samples. Aim to have soil samples taken once every 3 to 5 years to plan lime and fertiliser applications. There is still plenty of time to organise fields to be soil sampled with your local advisor over the coming weeks before ploughing, lime or organic manure applications take place.
Now is a great time to finalise fertiliser records for 2020 and update the fertiliser plan for 2021. By updating the fertiliser plan it will determine farm fertiliser requirements for 2021 and it is time to look at fertiliser options for coming season. The market indicates that fertiliser supply maybe tight at the start of the season due to fertiliser logistics and shipping delays at the ports currently.
Now is a great time to look at fields on the farm that require lime. Tillage crops require a soil pH 6.5+ on average in the crop rotation and crops such as beets, oilseeds, peas & beans require a higher soil pH 6.8 +. Lime is an important soil conditioner and will increase the availability of major nutrients such as N, P, K & S. Lime will also improve soil structure and drainage as Ca & Mg bind soil particles together to form more stable aggregated in the soil. Contact your local lime agent and organise lime required and don’t exceed anymore than 3t/ac in a single application.
Organic manures are a valuable source of N, P, K, S and soil organic matter. By applying organic manures to continuous tillage soils you will be feeding the soil biology and adding soil organic matter / carbon to the soil. The organic matter / carbon is like the soils glue which binds the soils particles together giving soils more stability to heavy machinery passes and reduces soil compaction risk. Organic matter in manures feed the soil biology and in turn the biology will feed crops with N, P K, S and micro nutrients in a very plant available form during the growing season. Identify local organic manure sources in your locality such as cattle slurry, FYM, pig slurry, mushroom compost etc. Consult with your local advisor as to the quantity that can be imported and adjust fertiliser N, P & K applications to make the savings. It is also recommended to test the organic fertilisers where possible to determine nutrient content.
Ensure manures are well mixed and apply evenly at the recommended rates. Listen to a previos episode of the Tillage Edge podcast below where Mark Plunkett speaks on the topic of oragnic manures.
Finally the Teagasc National Tillage Conference will take place by webinar over 2 days, 3rd & 17th February at 11.30am. Please log onto the Teagasc website to Register in advance here