O rganic manuring can give significant improvements in soil health and productivity in a relatively short time, confirms the latest Agrii research from the AgriiFocus Technology Centre near Marlborough, in Wiltshire. Five different manuring regimes were examined at a field scale on silty clay loam ground over four seasons at the AgriiFocus site. The fully replicated treatments of chicken manure, biosolids, farmyard manure (FYM), green compost, green compost, and a double rate of green compost, were applied and incorporated to deliver exactly the same levels of total nitrogen/year within RB209 guidelines. After three applications in the spring barley/winter OSR/winter wheat rotation, most treatments gave clear increases in bread wheat yields. Subsequent measurements of organic matter (OM) levels, earthworm populations and infiltration rates also showed noticeable improvements in most cases. However, the treatments giving the greatest yield increases were not necessarily those improving the key soil health indicators to the greatest extent. “From an untreated average of 2.7%, the most impressive soil organic matter improvement – to well over 4% – came from our double rate of green compost addition (150 t/ha in all over four seasons) reported Agrii trials manager, Dr Syed Shah at a special soil health briefing. “A total of 30 t/ha of chicken manure overthetrialboostedtheaverage OM to just under 4% while 60 t/ ha of biosolids only increased the level to just over 3%, 75 t/ha of composttoaround3.25%and120 t/ha of FYM to just over 3.5%.” “The higher rate compost and biosolids treatments also gave the most significant increases in earthworm populations – from an untreated average of just over 80g/m2 to around 150g/m2 and 130 g/m2 respectively. FYM and standard rate compost did a similar job to biosolids here. But chicken manure actually reduced the earthworm population to around 70g/m2 . “FYM gave us by far the best wheat performance, though,” Dr Shah pointed out. “Averaged across in crop fertiliser nitrogen rates it raised Gallant yields from around 10.45 t/ha to almost 11.55 t/ha. The double rate of compost delivered 11.15 t/ha, poultry manure 10.77 t/ha, the standard rate of compost 10.61 t/ha and biosolids 10.23 t/ha.” “We need to think more broadly here when looking at how to improve soil health to maximise arable performance,” suggested Dr Shah. “There may be more carbon in green composts and chicken manure but they aren’t nearly such good food sources for soil micro-organisms as FYM. And the acidity of chicken manure is quite obviously a negative factor where earthworms are concerned. “Our trials clearly underline the value of organic manuring in improving the health and productivity of arable soils for the greatest cropping resilience. Which manures are best is very much matter of horses for courses as well as local availability and relative cost. “FYM will almost certainly be the best choice where your priority is across-the-board clay-based soil health and productivity improvement,” he advised. “On sandy soils where increasing the infiltration rate is undesirable you’d be better off using compost, which also has value in improving trace element status. It’s relatively high volume makes compost useful as a surface mulch for black-grass control too. “Biosolids can be especially valuable where you want to improve phosphate indices. And chicken manure is probably best on high pH soils.” Agrii Autumn 2017 Contents Results from AgriiFocus organic manure trials Upcoming events: focus on soils Page 1 Regional news update: + Autumn events round up + Autumn/winter events preview + Competition winners + Three Counties Farming Conference + Silver Lapwing Award Page 2 Regional R&D update from Syed Shah Page 3 Integrated slug control Page 4 Targeted nutrition: new developments from the SoilQuest team Page 4 Seed update: The late drilling slot Page 5 New maize varieties for 2017/18 Page 5 Using catch and cover crops to meet EFA requirements Page 5 Regional contacts Page 6 Agrii at LAMMA 2018 Page 6 Dates for your diary Page 6 www.agrii.co.uk @AgriiWest 01 Syed Shah and Andrew Richards at the AgriiFocus trials site Trials highlight relative organic manure value W e’re pleased to be welcoming Joel Williams, an independent plant and soil health educator and consultant to our autumn Dorset (3rd November) and South Wales (2nd November) iFarm events. Joel will be looking at how we can utilise an understanding of living, biologically active soils to optimise soil health. Joel will draw on his experiences in Australia and more recently working throughout Europe with a range of production systems, integrating soil chemical and biological assessments along with plant nutritional analyses, to create joined-up strategies for managing crop production. If you’d like to attend one of the events, or for more information, please contact events@agrii.co.uk. Soil health focus at Agrii autumn events