Balancing nutrition

Better soils
with Brett Petersen
Kiwi Fertiliser & Golden Bay Dolomite

Ray Shearer, who farms at Kihikihi, had been looking for a better way for 60 years and has been using the Kiwi Fertiliser for 10 years. Ray produces bales of diverse pastures that sell for a 100 per cent premium. They cost twice as much as other bales because the nutrition is excellent. Dry matter of 50 per cent is achieved within two days of mowing almost any time of the year. Yield averages 23 tonnes per hectare of high-quality bales.

We’ve been told you cannot get high yield of high-quality produce as they are mutually exclusive. Think about it. If plants struggle to make yield it must be because they are nutritionally challenged. Supply the nutrition and the yield will increase. When crops mature, under those circumstances they can be left longer without loss of quality. The plants remain green to the ground with minimal dying leaves. Three-leaved ryegrass tillers are common, but you can do better despite what you read in the literature. Five green leaves are attained if you correctly fertilise the soil.

Ray takes tissue samples of all his harvests, both as crops and as baleage. The interesting thing is they all test nominally low in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium when measured. These are the same nutrients the fertiliser industry constantly pushes at farmers year-after-year. Are yields improving? Is the quality of the pasture or produce improving? Is the animal health improving? If you are following “industry best practice” the answers will all be “no”. But that is the sales pitch. That is the mantra.

At Kiwi Fertiliser we do add nitrogen, phosphate and potassium with some applications, but not at the expense of calcium, magnesium, sulphur, manganese, copper, boron, selenium, cobalt, zinc, molybdenum and even iron, sodium and chloride. Each nutrient has its place. But if some nutrients are too high, the plant will struggle to get enough of something else. Averages or ranges have nothing to do with it. Knowing what is high or low is not as simple as looking at a tissue sample for the answers. They are simply not there, as each soil has its own correct fingerprint based on its total exchange capacity.

Balancing each nutrient with the others is the key. It is not how high the nutrients are in the plants that counts, but the balance of each one to the other. For example, nitrogen adversely affects boron, calcium, potassium and zinc. On the other hand, magnesium, molybdenum, phosphorus and sulphur will affect nitrogen. Copper and nitrogen affect each other. Phosphorus will affect boron, potassium, molybdenum, nitrogen and zinc. Aluminium will affect phosphorus. Calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and manganese all have a two-way relationship with phosphorus. Potassium affects calcium and zinc. Nitrogen, chlorine and phosphorus affect potassium. Boron, iron, magnesium, manganese and sodium all have a two-way relationship with potassium. Note that chlorine adversely affects potassium, yet potassium chloride is the default product for most potassium applications.

Many of the fertiliser products commonly used are detrimental to the soil microbes. These creatures are another misunderstood key element to good soil nutrition, along with soil structure and pH.


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