Soil is a living asset
With the current pressures of fertiliser use, water quality, general cost increases, and the consequences of challenging climate changes, the need to produce your final product as efficiently as possible has never been so important.
The use of fertiliser and chemicals have historically been a large part of grassland management. Times are changing but if the soil isn’t in the correct conditions to absorb and retain any applicants, it’s irrelevant what you use or how accurately you spread them. You could spread agro chemicals or biostimulants accurately to the nearest gram/ha, but if the soil isn’t in the condition to make best use of it, run off or surface only penetration will result in a loss of productivity and money.
Good efficient farming starts with the one thing we use to grow all our crops ... the soil!
We need to think of the soil as a living asset that needs water, oxygen, biological organisms and warmth.
The legacy of traditional farming methods
Over the years we have expected soil to keep performing using traditional methods that merely “maintain and sustain”. These traditional methods often expose soil to erosion, destroy humus releasing sequestered carbon and break down the soil structure and biology that has taken precious time to form. It is now thought that as much carbon is probably released by the same traditional processes that are trying to add carbon to the soil e.g. ploughing in manure.
The repeated passes by heavy tractors and equipment lead to soil degeneration and to the formation of almost impenetrable layers of compact soil (“hard pan”) below the surface.
Livestock grazing, combined with the machinery, contributes to “hard pan” formation otherwise known as soil compaction....
What is compaction?
Compaction of the soil results in soil particle compression resulting in:
large angular block like aggregates
a closed structure rather than open and porous
limited water penetration reduction in oxygen entry
a stressed crop whose roots can’t easily penetrate the “pan”.
Organisms vital for soil health no longer reside causing a reduction in organic matter, poorly bound structure and limited nutrient availability.
What does compaction result in?
Significant run off
Loss of topsoil and erosion
Water logging and poaching with the associated livestock veterinary issues
Reduced plant growth and DM yields
Poor carbon capture
High fertiliser/applicant costs that don’t always bring rewarding returns
Reduced number of grazing days
Struggles to address key policy drivers made by the government rewarding farmers for soil health, water quality and improved carbon footprints.
It is not uncommon for a UK farm to be farming only the top 2" of soil!
With clear changes in our climate and the challenge that that presents for our soil, we need to consider soil health and tactical, cost effective approaches more than ever.
AERATION IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THAT REGENERATIVE PLAN