Know your soil, know your fertiliser needs
Soil is the very backbone of farming yet too many landowners in the Wilson Inlet Catchment do not have a proper understanding of whats actually happening in their soils. While observations of your pasture can give you an indication it is far from acurate.
The result is that most farmers are simply washing their money down the drain. We know this because the fertiliser that is not used on the farm is ending up creating excess seegrass and algae in wilson Inlet.
Don't Guess: Soil test
The cost of having your soil sampled and professionally analyzed for nutrients and minerals can vary. Unfortunately many landowners do not see the value in spending the money required, as their traditional application rates do provide pasture growth. However, what they may not see is the wasted fertiliser or the reasoning behind the growth. Often it is only a few elements, usually sulphur, that is required by your pasture.
A soil test will let you know what type and amount of fertiliser you require. This will result in better pasture, healthier soils and financial savings over a few years.
Who can help me with soil testing?
There are a number of companies which undertake either soil testing, analysing the results or both. You do not have to use the same company that tests the soil to alalyse it for you and give you advice.
The first note about fertiliser application is know your soil. Applications should be based on the results of soil testing, if not done every year at least every second. It is often not necessary to apply yearly, especially phosphorus. Improving your soil structure will also reduce the need for fertilisers.
When you are ready to apply fertiliser there are some guidelines you should follow to maximise your dollar and reduce the off-site environmental risk. These are:
- base your applications on soil test analysis. Ideally this should be done for each paddock or soil type.
- if possible split your fertiliser applications. Doing two smaller applications will decrease the amount of fertiliser lost through leeching over winter.
- look after your clover. This provides a free source of nitrogen
- Do not fertiliser your firebreaks. This is just a waste of fertiliser but often done
- Do not fertiliser next to creek or drains. There is generally no need to do so as they are usually lower in the landscape and fertiliser from upslope will run down to that area anyway.
- Fertlising too close to drains and creeks is also a quick way to fertilise the water and cause downstream algal blooms.
Landowners should strive to achieve a healthy soil as this will improve production, long term use and the resilience of the soil. Healthy soil should have a good structure, with quality organic and living matter and the correct pH (especially sub-surface pH). There are a number of practices that effect soil health, both for better and worse. These include over stocking, soil compaction, overuse of super-phosphate and other chemicals, tillage and many more. To learn more about soil health visit the Soil Health website at the University of Western Australia.