A small investment to better understand your growing environment and growing medium can make a huge difference to production output and long term cost savings on fertiliser and rectifications.
Adapted from the Grains Research Development Corporation (GRDC) knowledge base.
Like children, healthy well-fed plants are better able to fight disease. Healthy plants also compete better with insects and weeds.
That's where soil testing comes in. It allows the farmer to develop a balanced nutrition program that complements the desirable environmental benefits of conservation tillage and can reduce the amount of crop protection chemicals needed. Soil testing provides assurance that fertiliser nutrients are being applied to soils for good reasons, with the support of scientific analysis. Soil testing also benefits the environment in several important ways.
Soil testing acts like a fuel gauge. If the soil is close to running out of nutrients the test tells the farmer it is time to replenish the supply. If the 'tank' is full, the farmer has the option of adding just the nutrients needed by the crop, or waiting until next season before replenishing the soil. Conservation of a valuable resource and production efficiency are both served by not adding more fertiliser than necessary.
Soil testing for residual nitrogen helps preserve water quality by reducing the chance that excess nitrogen will be lost to ground water. Adjustment in the application rate can take advantage of unused nutrients from the previous crop while ensuring adequate supplies for profitable crop yields.
Soil conservation is also usually associated with minimum tillage which reduces soil erosion. But reduced tillage systems are less forgiving of nutrient shortages. Soil testing helps uncover shortages and nutrient imbalances, allowing corrective applications. An added benefit of combining a balanced fertility program with conservation tillage is increased soil productivity over time.
One of the original aims of soil testing was identifying yield-limiting factors. The tests were originally developed to identify soils which would respond profitably to commercial fertiliser. This remains a primary purpose of soil testing today.
Whether you are a farmer on a large production site or a home gardener setting up a new fruit or veggie patch, an investment in soil (and water) testing can make a significant difference to your end production and crop results, along with creating a more sustainable growing environment.
For more information on soil testing, or to book a consultation, contact Dave at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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