What fertiliser and religion have in common

Soil matters
with Peter Burton
Functional Fertiliser Ltd

When our own knowledge is lacking and there are those that profess to be all-knowing, it’s far easier to accept their authoritatively-stated position than spend time and effort nutting it out for ourselves.

We then justify that decision by checking with our peers and, if there is general agreement, it’s a done deal and we stick together; a sort of ‘safety in numbers’ type mentality. Maintaining that position requires a degree of faith.

However, deep within the psyche of most is an awareness that we might just be wrong, remote but possible, and if that that turns out to be the case there is, at least, the comfort of knowing we’re in good company.

When it comes to fertiliser anybody proposing anything not based on soluble N, P, and K is often still dismissed as a heretic, and their products then labelled as snake oil, or worse. The term “lack of science” is regularly tossed in to discussions as the ultimate put-down, and who is going to argue with that?

Witches not burned

A thinking person might well wonder, if mainstream science is as well-founded and irrefutable as claimed, why dismissively aggressive behaviour still exists. It’s comforting to know that witches are no longer burned.

In order to further well-reasoned discussion, here’s the key differences between the programmes Functional Fertiliser promote, and the alternative sold by the major companies.

We view calcium as the most important element in the growing process and although most soils naturally contain large amounts, in many instances it is cycling too slowly to provide best results. Calcium is therefore part of all recommendations.

Phosphorus, potassium, and sulphur are viewed as essential elements, however genuine soft phosphate rock is favoured over water-soluble manufactured products. Potassium is always applied in the sulphate form, and high-quality, finely ground elemental sulphur provides any necessary longer-term sulphur requirements.

Clover kingmaker

Magnesium, where required, is applied in the form of Golden Bay dolomite, the most effective magnesium fertiliser we’ve used, and it comes with a useful amount of calcium.

And here’s the fundamental difference. In permanent pasture, clover is seen as the kingmaker and the programmes are designed to create the conditions under which clovers flourish.

With the amount of N fixed free-of-charge by clovers, along with that available direct from the atmosphere and the thousands of kilogrammes held organically in the soil, these programmes are not dependent on fertiliser nitrogen.

Beneficial bacteria, fungi

The energy supplied by bag N in a conventional programme is replaced by the grunt provided by a wide range of selected beneficial fungi and bacteria. The resultant permanent grazed pasture performance is as good or better as any from a conventional N-driven system, based on 15 years of careful measuring.

We’re keen to discuss this, in depth and at length, with all people interested in genuine sustainability. Those with different views will be treated respectfully; no offence will be taken, nor will any attempt be made to personalise what we see as fundamentally important issues in agriculture today. And next year as new stuff is learned, may the discussion continue. Call Peter on 0800 843 809.      



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