1. A soil is the stomach of the plant and full of life so we should avoid applying chemicals wherever possible. We are a reflection of the soils health.
2. Most chemical fertilisers kill or reduce microbe populations causing imbalances and restricting mineral uptake by plants. Nitrogen is the only major plant nutrient that you can grow yourself; reduce artificial nitrogen inputs and look after your soil biology.
3. Eighty to ninety-five percent of plant yield comes from the atmosphere, while only 2-5% comes from the soil (sources vary).
4. Fertiliser effectiveness is based around the calcium content of your soil. If the base saturation calcium is below 60% then nutrient uptake is restricted.
5. Apply Dolomite or lime to correct calcium and/or magnesium not to correct pH!
6. If Lucerne, oats and similar grains have hollow stems, calcium is lacking and yield will not meet its full potential. Adequate calcium translates into better stock growth rates and weight gain.
7. The target base saturation figures for most New Zealand soils are;
- Calcium 68%
- Magnesium 12%
- Potassium 5%
- Sodium 1.5%
8. We believe a Soil analysis from Perry Agricultural Laboratories is the only way to truly see where the base saturation levels are in your soil.
9. Calcium and Boron work together so applied Dolomite or Lime can be enhanced with adding Boron. Selenium, Cobalt and Boron are commonly deficient in New Zealand soils.
10. Fertilisers are more effective with carbon added as carbon is food for the microbes. Carbon sources can be well made compost, microbial inoculated aged bark, humates and/or charcoal.
11. Not all sources of N, P, K, Mag, S etc are the same. Organic forms are far superior to chemical forms, and some chemicals are worse than others. The ‘bioavailable’ forms of nutrients are the best healthy options.
12. An organic fertiliser programme will feed the microbes first, which will then feed the plant. Microbes include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, algae, ciliates, arthropods and earthworms.
13. Bacteria have a carbon to Nitrogen ratio of 5:1 so for every six bacteria eaten five parts of Nitrogen are released. It is therefore very important to have the soil in balance and provide an ideal environment for the biology to thrive.
14. There is 74,000 tonnes of free Nitrogen above every hectare. This can be sequestered in the soil by having a 7:1 Ca: Mag ratio with available phosphorous, iron, cobalt and molybdenum. If one of these is missing you may have to import nitrogen.
15. The number of earthworms in the soil is an excellent visual sign of a healthy soil, similar to how the number of frogs indicates the health of our water ways.
16. The number of earthworms in the soil is an excellent visual sign of a healthy soil, and they can produce 30-300 tonnes /ha of casts per year. Worm casts from 20 worms per spade square contain 5xN (1.2/ha), 7xP, 3xMg,11xK and 1.5xCa, far more than ordinary soil (62 earthworms per square metre).Sulphur iron, zinc and trace elements also increase. Pasture fibre increases by over 100%.
17. Sixty percent of the sugars manufactured in leaves are dumped into the roots at night. Because sugar content in leaves is highest then, endeavour to cut hay or silage in late afternoon or evening.
18. Do not confuse symptoms with causes; the disease is not the cause but rather a symptom of an already failing and deficient system. Once you accept this you can start to address the real problems - soil health.
19. Dr Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel Prizes stated: “In my opinion, one can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to mineral deficiency”. If you accept this statement, then poor fertiliser programmes are responsible for all of the below;
- Stock health problems
- Pest and disease problems
- Fungal and bacterial diseases
- Rot and short shelf life of Fruit and vegetables
- Continuous dipping, drenching and dagging
- Constant re-grassing of pasture
20. Organic matter is the single most important factor determining profit, yet just one kilogram of excess nitrogen will account for a loss of 110kgs of soil carbon, so organic matter will decline slowly but surely.
21. Most farm soils being “fed” by chemical fertilisers are losing organic matter and the ability to hold nutrients and moisture. They are becoming more drought-prone, and pasture growth rates are decreasing, even with applied chemical nitrogen.
22. Over time correct fertiliser policies and a biological farming approach will substantially drought-proof the soil, build organic matter and improve soil health. If soils do not have good levels of organic matter they will not store enough water to feed rivers over the summer, which is why summer river flows are decreasing.
23. About 75% of soluble phosphate products tie up with calcium, aluminium, manganese and iron within six weeks of application.
24. Phosphorus, along with nitrogen is responsible for eutrophication of our water supplies. Eutrophication is increased algal growth and decreased oxygen levels of drains, rivers and lakes, owing to chemical phosphorus and nitrogen reaching waterways. One kilogram of phosphorus can grow 350-700kgs of algae.
25. Insoluble yet available forms of phosphorus like RPR, Guano or Dicalcic fertiliser, along with correct calcium levels will cause aluminium and iron levels to fall as the soil comes into balance.
26. Soluble phosphorus products kill vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (VAM). Mycorrhizal fungi can increase the roots access to nutrient by up to 1,000 times, and plants grown with VAM have increased nutrition. Lack of VAM leads to soil erosion and leaching. New Zealand’s rates of soil erosion are very high.
27. Soil scientists claim 16 elements are required to support life; however some geneticists maintain that at least 64 are required. Lack of an element means plant functioning is reduced and disease will follow.
28. Potassium Chloride (KCL) kills microbes, just 2ppm (4kgs/ha) of chlorine is enough to cause harm and the net effect of this is a rock hard soil. KCL also encourages certain weed growth. Potassium Chloride has a salt index of 116 – Potassium Sulphate has a salt index of 46. When correcting soil potassium deficiencies insist on using Potassium Sulphate.
29. Silicon is abundant in the soil, but not necessarily available. Available Silicon in plants will thwart penetration by fungal hyphae and will cause dehydration and death in insects.
30. NPK does not build fertility or organic matter – only calcium, carbon and biology do. The higher the organic matter the greater the ability of the soil to hold nutrients and moisture.
31. NPK has grown grass and is growing grass, but the decline of soil organic matter and loss of carbon the atmosphere means it is not a sustainable practice. This must be addressed if we are to improve farming long term.
32. Trace elements are vitally important to the growing of healthy crops. Just because they are found in lesser amounts within the soil does not make them any less essential, they must be included in a balanced fertiliser programme.
33. It is recommended a comprehensive soil test is carried out each year to determine your soils deficiencies. “If we don’t measure we can’t manage”.