Starting with the soil

The first thing to consider when looking at the finer details of grassland management is whether you have a full understanding of your soil and its nutritional status. If the answer is no, then to get the maximum benefit from a reseed or established leys, I would always advise checking the soil structure and sampling on a field-by-field basis. This will help to determine important factors such as the pH of your soil which is essential for nutrient availability, as well as the current levels of N, P, K and other elements.

Grass breeder, Germinal, recently identified that soil which is moderately damaged –  with poor soil structure and which is suffering from compaction issues can reduce yield by up to 30% and significantly increased the risk of weed ingression. This can have a big impact on on-farm margins as you may have to supplement the losses with bought-in feed.

Indicators of damaged soils include:

  • Colour
  • Smell
  • Horizontal cracking
  • Amount of Worm activity
  • Rooting issues
  • Organic matter breakdown

For advice on checking your soil’s structure for grassland, click here to find a scoring system which will help you determine if your soil is experiencing any issues.

Fertiliser

Blanket fertiliser applications across all grassland field types can lead to over-spending or more likely inaccurate spending – where the grass crop doesn’t get the full benefit of the application. The most common example of this is when the soil pH is below the recommended levels. For peaty soils, the range is 5.0 to 5.5 and for mineral based soils, it is 6.0 to 6.5. If you haven’t tested the pH of your soil, and the levels fall outside these, it will often hamper the nutrient availability to your grass crop. This means that fertiliser that has been applied could go unused and is ultimately wasted – and so is the financial investment. For example, if your soil pH is between 5 and 5.5, up to half of your nitrogen can be lost rather than used by the grass crop. Consequently, producers could be wasting half of their N expenditure simply because they did not apply lime prior to reseeding.

For more information on soil analysis and bespoke grassland fertiliser plans, speak to your local specialist or Wynnstay’s Fertiliser Department on 01939 211266.

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