Friday, March 22, 2019

Focus on ways to improve soil health and structure

April 30, 2018 by  
Filed under News & Business

Soil health will take centre stage at Cereals, with visitors able to see a host of options for improving soil structure as part of a productive, profitable and viable business.

With a lot of debate about the pros and cons of no-till and minimum tillage systems, there will be plenty on show at this year’s event. A key exhibitor will be machinery manufacturer Mzuri, whih will be showcasing its new Pro-Til Xzact precision strip till seeder.

The Pro-Til combines a strip till drill and precision seed drill, meaning all types of arable crops can be sown in just one pass, explains Mzuri managing director Martin Lole. “This eliminates unnecessary passes and reduces labour and fuel requirements. Less farm traffic in turn means reduced compaction, better structured soils and a healthier root system.

Improved quality

“Capable of drilling straight into the previous crop residue, the drill has been proven to retain moisture, reduce soil and water erosion, preserve and improve natural soil structure and cut diesel requirement by up to 80% – without yield penalties.”

Monitoring the quality of soil can be a challenge, so Yara Analytical Services will be back at the Cereals soil pit with a practical demonstration of how to use field and laboratory measurements to best effect.

“Managing soil quality starts by measuring each of the soil health properties,” says Caroline Hobson, business development coordinator at Yara Analytical Services.

“Farmers have been visually monitoring their land for many years; spotting areas of compaction, poor drainage, erosion and poor crop growth; but we can also use laboratory analysis to measure three inter-related aspects of soil health; biological, physical and chemical.”

To further help farmers, Hutchinsons has developed a new Healthy Soils service which looks at a number of areas including cropping and cultivations, soil health and texture and infiltration.

The subsequent report brings together the farmer’s historical knowledge and the agronomist’s experience to suggest modified farm practices which boost soil organic matter to allow fauna and flora to flourish, explains Andy Hoyles, Hutchinsons nutritional development manager.

“Delivering a complete service that measures and monitors soil health creates a much better understanding of soils, so that yield and overall farm profitability will benefit – for the long term.”

Latest research from Syngenta suggests that increasing access to nutrients and water in the soil by improving root health is a largely untapped opportunity to boost crop potential. Healthier roots are essential to enable crops to fully utilise what the soil has to offer, it says

“As well as providing a larger surface area for absorbing water and nutrients, deeper roots can aid plant vigour and drought tolerance – ultimately supporting higher outputs,” explains Syngenta seed care campaign manager Mark Bullen.

Since last autumn, the company has been collating root growth results from farms around the country, which have been using its SDHI-based fungicide treatment – Vibrance Duo – primarily used to control establishment diseases like seed borne fusarium.

Fantastic results

Vibrance Duo has also shown clear root enhancing effects, says Mr Bullen. “On-farm results have been fantastic. Root mass has been increased to as much as double that seen with a standard triazole fungicide seed treatment.”

Meanwhile, Cereals content partner AHDB is investing in soil management research as part of its Great Soils programme. This initiative covers a range of subjects including soil sampling, texture assessment, pH, nutrient content, drainage, cultivations and compaction.

“We are aiming to increase understanding of soil biology and develop a toolkit to measure and manage soil health,” says James Holmes, senior soil scientist at AHDB. “Soil physics, chemistry and biology are interlinked and all play a role in maintaining productive systems.

“The research will tap into an already established network of farm-based initiatives, including AHDB’s monitor and strategic farms and commercial sites. This will allow farmers, growers and agronomists access to trials and provide a forum for peer-to-peer learning.”

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