It's Time to Carry out Soil Analysis

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), February 12, 2003 | Go to article overview

It's Time to Carry out Soil Analysis


Byline: PAT McCAMBRIDGE, Beef and Sheep Development Adviser, Greenmount College

SOIL analysis should be considered as an essential management tool in running a successful farm business.

Soil analysis carried out on a regular basis provides the essential information required to make effective management decisions about fertiliser applications.

Very often fertiliser is applied only on the basis of what has been traditionally used to get 'results' and not on the needs of the soil.

From an environmental point of view, farmers have a responsibility to ensure that there is not an oversupply of any particular nutrient, which could lead to a potential pollution problem.

NUTRIENT OVERSUPPLY: It is estimated that nitrogen and phosphate in Northern Ireland are over supplied to the value of approximately pounds 10 million per year. This means that many farmers are sowing inappropriate levels of nitrogen and phosphate on their grassland and cropping areas. Also potash and sulphur are under supplied on silage areas and too little lime is applied leading to poorer responses from nitrogen fertiliser.

WHEN AND HOW TO SAMPLE: Ideally, fields which have not received any fertiliser or slurry this year should be sampled during the winter and early spring using a soil auger (equipment for sampling is available from your local Agriculture Development Centre). The key is to get a representative sample by walking across the field following a W pattern taking a sample every 50m and avoiding gateways.

VALUE OF SOIL ANALYSIS: Regular soil sampling (one year in four) and analysis will provide essential information on soil pH, lime requirement, phosphate and potash levels allowing more efficient and accurate applications of fertiliser. …

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