Slow and steady wins the race on soil fertility

Little by little progress is being made – across the country – on soil fertility levels.

Speaking at the precise application of fertiliser event held in Moorepark, Mark Plunkett – Teagasc soil and plant nutrition specialist – painted a positive picture on soil fertility levels to date.

Massive improvements have been made in terms of lime over the last three to five years; this is reflected in the usage and the soil test results; both on grassland and tillage farms.

“Approximately 1.1 million tonnes of lime was spread in 2018,” explained Mark.

Since 2016, the proportion of soils with a pH greater than 6.2 has jumped significantly.

This is indicative of farmers increased awareness of the soils needed for lime; to improve soil pH and in turn get the most efficient use out of any fertilisers applied.

“P [phosphorus] trends are seeing a fall off in index 1 and 2; however, 60% is still at index 1 and 2.

“Although, a 4% improvement has been made in index 1 and 2 soils during 2018.

“K [potassium] on the other hand, has seen a reduction in the proportion of soils in index 1 by approximately 50%; which is positive as it shows we are making progress nationally in terms of our nutrient levels,” said Mark.

This is reflected in the high percentage in index 2 (37%). Although half the soils are of good fertility for K and are in index 3 and 4.

“20% of tillage soils and 15% of dairy soils are at optimum for P, K and lime, so there is still plenty of room to improve,” concluded Mark.

Building soil fertility is a slow process, but improved soil fertility has the added benefits of improving your farms overall profitability, through increased grass and milk production.