with Brett Petersen
Kiwi Fertiliser & Golden Bay Dolomite
This article is adapted from an article by Don Hart of Top Soils, Canterbury. The ‘Albrecht System of Soil Fertility’ refers to the principles used to develop optimum soil fertility that Dr William Albrecht worked to perfect in his decades of tireless work with soil. Dr Albrecht was a soil microbiologist and began his career at the University of Missouri in 1919, retiring in 1959 but remained active until his death in 1974. As a soil microbiologist, his aim was to improve the soil environment for soil microbiology. He regarded the validity of true soil fertility as a repeatable process and approached such work with scientific principles that could be applied and proven in the field.
He found to achieve top performance a soil should be composed of 45 per cent minerals, five per cent humus, 25 per cent water and 25 per cent air. This is achieved by a balanced mineral application, determined by a soil audit for each particular soil. It’s the chemical makeup of a soil that determines the physical structure. When soil chemistry and physics are correct, soil biology will be maximised. It’s the soil biology that provides the foundation for soil health by optimising mineral nutrition for plants. The more correct the chemistry, physics and biology; the better the quality and yield of plants from those soils. That’s why so much emphasis is placed on achieving the exact level for each nutrient, based on the specific requirements of every different soil.
So how do we make the environment right for the biology? The Albrecht system of soil fertility uses the relationship between the physical structure of a soil and its exchange capacity measured in milliequivalents – or ME – and base saturation percentage – also known as BS percentage. It’s the percentage of the cations calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium that occupy most of the sites on the soil colloid, that determines whether or not there is enough pore space to accommodate the correct air and water percentages needed for optimum microbial populations and hence, plant growth. Calcium and magnesium are by far the most influential. To calculate correct soil fertiliser inputs, there are several technical factors involved. In addition, the exact materials used contribute to the solution. The cheapest materials usually fail to deliver the results required. Lowest common denominators are not factors required for success.
Was Dr Albrecht right and if so why? Until recently, university research systems have not supported the Albrecht system. Being funded by commercial interests, they have largely arrived at conclusions that appeased their funders. But when scientists talk to agronomists and farmers in the field there is a strong consensus of opinion that they are seeing superior results with the Albrecht system. To correct the environment for the soil microbes, Dr Albrecht found the right balance of cations needed to be present on the soil particles. Base Saturation percentage; not ratios. He suggested on most soils the BS percentage of Ca should be 68, 12 Mg, 2-5K and 0.5-3 Na. Nitrogen, phosphate, sulphur and trace minerals are also important, and are absolutely not ignored.
Professor Tim Reinbott, Ph.D. of Missouri University, led a research team which broke down Dr Albrecht’s recommendations and tested each individually and together. They tested the chemical, physical and biological properties of Albrecht’s discoveries in field trials over several years. The complete Albrecht recommendation as calculated by Neal Kinsey of Kinsey Agricultural Services resulted in the highest yield of forage, corn and soybeans. Corn grain quality was higher and forage nutritional quality was greater when the Albrecht system was followed. Yield increases resulted from better soil health. The Albrecht method improves soil chemistry and results in an increase in soil biology which in turn increases soil physical properties such as aggregate stability. https://www.slideshare.net/Reinbottt/was-dr-albrecht-correct
Kiwi Fertiliser finds the system gives better and better results the longer you apply it. Some practitioners have been employing the method for more than 20 years and are still increasing their yields and production. They win competitions and quality/quantity awards, use fewer – if any – chemicals, and suffer less from drought and frosts. Our crop and lucerne growers as a rule do not need to spray for weeds, insects or diseases. Those running stock get higher production and much lower vet bills as animal health improves. Milk quality/quantity has also improved, and nitrogen application has vastly reduced. Even the effluent ponds clear up.