Soil Nutrition Is The Key
I believe the 2022 season is one that will be remembered by all farmers across Australia for a long time. Soil Nutrition helped our Upper North region, we went from one of our driest Autumn and Winter to one of our wettest Springs. At this point we have had above our yearly average rainfall but mostly in the Spring. We went from supplementary feeding all our sheep, with ewes lambing up until end of August to having more pasture than we have seen for many years.
Healthy living soils with balanced nutrition is the key
During this year SMS has been involved with many soil workshops, field days and programs looking at soil health and nutrition and crop and pasture nutritional status from various soil types. SMS enjoyed meeting various farmers with the same interests about Soil Health. Visit Ag Excellence Alliance if you are looking for networking or more workshops.
Plant Sap nutrient testing showed how variable it can be in relation to a soil test the plant is growing in and the nutrients it supposedly should be providing. There are many factors involved in this such as soil moisture and temperature, frost events, chemicals used, nitrogen applications etc.
Healthy living soils with balanced nutrition is the key to overcoming these variable restraints. It is little understood that imbalances of soil mineral nutrients can be a problem in uptake of some nutrients. A typical one is excess of Calcium, Iron or Aluminum can cause deficiencies of Phosphorus to the plant even with high soil P levels and liberal P fertiliser applications. In much of the Mid North of SA soils are high in Potassium which is antagonistic to uptake of Magnesium to the plant, causing deficiencies even though there is good levels of Magnesium in the soil. An example this year by a farmer in soils with good Calcium levels found in his Tissue tests in wheat that he was actually deficient in Calcium to which he applied a foliar Calcium and Boron; Boron because it is synergistic with Calcium and enhances Calcium availability from the soil. Although these deficiencies may be temporary during the season, a correction leads to more resilience and vigour in the plant which can lead to less severe impact from this season’s stripe rust disease. Excess nitrate nitrogen in the plant will cause a dilution of all the other nutrients making it very attractive to pest and disease. Sulphur, which is mostly overlooked in its importance, being the one nutrient synergistic with mostly all the other nutrients and also biological activity and functions, is required in much higher levels than commonly suggested.
SMS has always promoted Visual Soil Assessments. It is great way to monitor changes in soil over time and changes will show in the soil before being picked up in soil tests. Too often we see soil biological activity is only at the surface with no depth to it. Along with balancing soil nutrition, it is this biological activity and diversity and its symbiotic relationship with plant roots that makes nutrients available to the plant. Thus, leading to greater fertiliser use efficiency which with the cost of fertiliser is something to aim for. Many of the chemicals used particularly insecticides and fungicides which have increased over the years has a real impact on soil biology. A long-term focus on encouraging a healthy live soil should be a first priority understanding that the complexities of farming require compromises along the way.
Here’s hoping harvest is now progressing well for you.