Orkney Soil & Nutrient Network: 2nd meeting – event summary

23 January 2019

Soil sampling the results from re-tests & selecting grass and clover varieties to suit your farm were the main topics at this event

During the second meeting of the Orkney Soil & Nutrient Network, we revisited the soil testing results discussed at the first meeting.  Suspicious of some of the high P & K readings the fields were resampled and the results were found to be very different.  This highlighted the importance of observing a 12-week gap between fertiliser applications and sampling.  It also underlined the need to take a series of samples across the field, avoiding end rigs.  Moving on to profitability – we discussed the costs involved in growing crops such as spring barley & grass silage.  The importance of good soil fertility and soil pH was key to helping to improve yields from reduced inputs and making these activities financially viable.

David Lawson, a grassland agronomist with SRUC was our guest speaker for the event.  David discussed both grass and clover selection to suit specific soil conditions and the effect of variable nitrogen and sulphur applications on grass quality and yield.

Key take-home messages

  1. When soil sampling ensure that you observe a 12-week gap between any fertiliser applications and drawing the sample to avoid inaccurate results.
  2. Also, avoid any areas where FYM or lime may have been tipped in the field in the past.
  3. Remedial action recommended to raise low and very low soil P & K levels will need to be repeated on more than one occasion before target levels will be achieved.
  4. The cost of producing spring barley demands that it is grown in soils with target pH, P and K levels to help make it financially viable.
  5. When selecting grass and clover species, ensure a mixture is selected appropriately to the soil type and conditions to achieve the required results.
  6. Be aware of the Scottish Recommended List when choosing grass varieties for a new sward and appreciate the potential performance of new varieties against old ones.

 

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