Farmers urged to improve soil quality now in advance of spring

A major supplier of agricultural products is urging farmers to improve soil quality now, in order to reap the benefits next spring.

Advisors at Welsh Country Stores firm Wynnstay say deciding whether or not to take action now will have a “direct impact” on livestock production and feeding in the spring.

“Ensuring your soil is the correct pH makes a huge difference to the productive potential of grassland and should always be the starting point,” said Sarah Evans, Wynnstay’s arable specialist.

“Yet, over the last thirty years, there has been a 50% reduction in the number of farmers liming soils.”

It’s an issue which has also been highlighted in recent years by UK advisory bodies such as AFBI in Northern Ireland.

Evans added that without lime, the resulting acidic quality of the soil will hamper nutrient availability, affecting grass yields and fertiliser applications.

But it’s not just a case of indiscriminately spreading lime across the whole farm. Wynnstay recommends continuous assessment of grasslands in order to decide when and where lime should be applied.

This assessment should include regular pH testing as well as soil sampling, on a field-by-field basis.

“The target grassland soil pH is between 6.3 and 6.5 and regular applications of lime are usually needed to redress lime losses and acid build-up,” Evans explained.

She explained that aerating can also be necessary for some soils that have become dried out and compacted over the summer.

This will encourage rapid grass growth in spring, because it helps soils to warm up quicker, as well as allowing space for oxygen and water to permeate deeper and reach grass roots. It’ll also improve drainage and reduce slurry and fertiliser run off.

As a final measure, Evans suggests that farmers need a fertiliser plan unique to their own needs and soils.

“Farmers need to maximise fertiliser efficiency by ensuring applications are targeted, rather than relying on the same fertiliser routine every year,” she added.