The shortage, and price increase, of nitrogen fertilisers can be mitigated by a more thorough understanding of soil fertility and plant available nutrients. This is according to soil testing specialist, Eurofins Agro UK, which has seen a rise in soil tests during 2021.
“Farmers and growers can use new, more advanced, soil tests to better understand nutrient levels at the start of the season. Many broad acre crops are already in the ground so the tricky decision of what level of inputs to use remains,” explains Eurofins Agro UK, managing director, Daniel Robinson.
One of the soil tests available, Fertilisation Manager, measures soil fertility including the chemical values of macro and micronutrients, soil pH, and the overall structure of the soil. “The number and nature of the bacteria present in a soil sample facilitates the accurate calculation of what nutrients need to be added to the soil to optimise plant health and growth. This will help users calculate the optimum amount and avoid overuse which should reduce costs,” he says.
Natural alternatives such as slurry and digestate are being advocated to plug the gap in supply of fertiliser. “Arable farmers could work with local livestock farms to relieve them of slurry, especially now that storage and spreading regulations are becoming more challenging. If the natural waste product is tested to establish its value, then an accurate calculation can be made to establish the amount required per acre,” he says.
To better understand the relationship between soil inputs and the crop, a further test, Soil Crop Monitor, is now available which analyses both the soil and the plant. It does so by measuring the plant available nutrients and the nutrients absorbed by the crop. “This will help monitor and measure the level of inputs needed for a specific crop based on what the soil is able to offer throughout the growing season, which will help control costs by managing any inputs needed more closely,” concludes Mr Robinson.