Grassland and forage crops accounted for 60% of the GB cropped and grassed area in 2014-2015 (BSFP 2015). This is a significant area representing the livestock sector, ranging from intensive dairy production through to extensive hill grazing, which all require different styles of management. Its overall contribution to livestock production is all too often undervalued with grass Soil is the most important resource on the farm, paramount in maximising productivity. It provides an economic return whilst requiring management to adhere to legislative requirements. Nutrients lost to aquatic systems can affect water quality and destroy aquatic life. The soil’s response to applied nitrogen in these conditions can be as little as 40%, leading to reduced yields of forage, which is ultimately a waste of time and money. A range of methods exist to manage soils under forage brassica crops and under maize. Please talk to us or visit one of our events to find out more. Managing the basics: Soil Forage crop nutrition Soil compaction is the biggest single factor affecting production, otherwise known as the silent killer. A compacted soil, whether caused by poaching or machinery operations, wastes manure and fertiliser resulting in anaerobic soils and subsequently run off. as a crop having the genetic potential for 25t/Dm/ha/annum, however 12.5t is seldom exceeded. The geographical influences on these systems impact productivity levels, however certain factors can be managed to optimise production. IN THIS SECTION: ✚ This section contains information relevant to all forage crops. ✚ Micronutrition in fodder beet is dealt with in the crop protection section of this document – please see page 77. Maintaining an appropriate pH is another important factor affecting efficient forage production. Optimum pH levels of between 6 - 6.5 for forage crops ensure that nutrient availability is maximised (Figure 2). A pH of 5.5 can cause a 10% yield loss compared to a soil at pH 6. This can equate to a tonne/DM/ Ha, which can cost more than £100/ha each season. Getting the basics right is fundamental to efficient production. Regular soil sampling on a 3 yearly 4.0 4.5 -9% YIELD 5.0 5.5 6.0 6.5 7.0 7.5 8.0 8.5 9.0 9.5 10.0 NITROGEN PHOSPHORUS POTASSIUM MAGNESIUM CALCIUM SULPHUR BORON MANGANESE Acid Neutral Alkaline IRON 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 4.2 3.6 3.7 3.7 1.6 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 % SOILS BY pH OPTIMUM pH FOR AVAILABILITY OF NUTRIENTS Figure 1: pH of grassland soils analysed by Lancrop Figure 2: Graph showing the optimum pH for availability of various nutrients basis will not only ensure a good understanding of soil nutrient status but also reduce cost of production. The bar chart below (Figure 1) illustrates the proportion of grassland soils analysed by Lancrop and the percentages falling into the various categories. It shows that most soils fall into the suboptimal range and that action is required. MEET THE TEAM “Regular soil sampling once in every 3 years will enable you to maintain soil reserves to optimise the efficiency of other nutrient inputs. Soil summary data indicates that a high proportion of soils are below target indices, which is where liming comes in.” ALISTAIR KING Fertiliser Manager Managing the basics: pH Please contact customer services: e: t: 0845 6073322 Please contact customer services: e: t: 0845 6073322 29 CROP NUTRITION 28 CROP NUTRITION