Get soil samples taken ASAP

Anyone who doesn’t have a set of up-to-date soil samples should be taking samples presently or in the near future; the recent spell of dry weather is ideal for sampling.

With fertiliser costs set to rise by 10-12% – according to Teagasc on tillage farms in 2019 – it is essential to use this costly input as efficiently as possible.

Soil tests should not be any greater than five years old. Some farmers will take samples more regularly than this, but all should aim to take samples every three-to-five years.

Soil samples should be taken at least every 4ha. This figure can be increased to 5ha where soil types or cropping of lands were similar in the previous five years.

Soil pH is an essential measurement to take as well as phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). It is also very helpful to get a wide ranging soil test which covers the minor nutrients, such as: magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn) and zinc (Zn).

It is important to observe organic matter levels from one test to the next and observe improvements.

Organic matter can take up to 40 years to move by 1%.

This is why it is essential to maintain organic matter levels by applying products like farmyard manure (FYM), slurry or compost, or by growing green manures and incorporating straw.

Once soil sample results are returned, a fertiliser plan for the coming year can be drawn up.

Sampling Method

The key to a good soil sample is that it is representative. For example, where patches in fields are under-performing, they should be sampled separately.

At least 20 cores should be taken per sample and these soil cores should be taken to a depth of 10cm.

To achieve a representative sample, the sampler should work in a “W” pattern. Unrepresentative areas should be avoided – for example, where a load of FYM was tipped up.

Avail of offers

Boortmalt suppliers should remember to avail of soil samples at a reduced rate through the Teagasc/Boortmalt joint programme.

The offer can be availed of on the area of land dedicated to malting barley on a Boortmalt supplier’s farm.

A free nutrient management plan will be carried out on the new soil sample results. This will be done on a field-by-field basis.

If you wish to avail of this offer, you can contact the joint-programme advisor, Eoin Lyons, or your local Teagasc or Boortmalt advisor.