Decrease nitrogen and increase production

Better soils
with Brett Petersen
Kiwi Fertiliser & Golden Bay Dolomite

The focus has recently been on increasing pasture growth and quality with minimal added nitrogen, without lessening production. This is nothing new. In 2008, a hilly dairy farm I was supervising, (250ha of easy and 150ha of aerial), averaged 10,867kg/ha DM. In 2012 the average was 16,238, an increase of 49 per cent in five years. The best flats went to 20,650. Hills were 9200. Nitrogen input plummeted to 3kg/ha.        

We cut out superphosphate and potassium chloride, substituting better options and enabling the biology to repopulate. Soil fertility needs were calculated around calcium-magnesium soil balancing and trace elements. The fertiliser budget did not change. Animal health improved and costs went down. Most of that DM responses were owing to better biology; none was added. Balancing the Ca and Mg improved the microbial habitat. Mushrooms, frogs, eels and whitebait all increased. And 2008, 2009 and 2010 were all dry years.

We have moved on since then and now have fantastic products such as Terragen Greatland microbial bio-stimulant and bio-fertiliser to work with to accelerate soil balancing. This is a game-changer, especially when microbial foods are added.

Nutrients to flourish

It takes 16 nutrients for a healthy system to flourish. Some suggest up to 64. It is not four or five. Soluble products can be counterproductive, causing leaching. Feed the animals in the soil, not the crop. The microbes and plants will interact to their mutual and synergistic benefit.

Calcium is a fertiliser, not a pH changer. Ca and Mg are critical for correct soil structure. Used correctly they improve it. Use them blindly and the soil structure and microbe numbers will collapse. Balanced soil will have the correct pH and high microbial populations. Microbes can increase the availability of almost all nutrients. Some nutrients may decrease as they will be used for extra production, and in the conversion of atmospheric nitrogen for plant use or be displaced by another nutrient. And pH must be the result of the fertiliser programme, not the cause of it.

Phosphorus need not be locked up in the soil, as it most often is. Biology will make it available if allowed to. I recently tested tracks through bush, and pasture soil. Both areas had the same fertiliser for the last five years. The bush showed 50 per cent higher levels of P. For Ca it was 25 per cent higher. That’s the power of fungi. Lose the fungi; lose the phosphate and calcium.

N applications

Applications of nitrogen can be scaled back drastically. Less than 50 per cent of the N is taken up by plants in any case. The rest causes havoc in the environment. Excess nitrate compromises animal health and promotes insect attack in plants. Nitrogen strips calcium and other cations out of the soil.

Potassium as KCl is another problem. The chloride is readily taken up by plants, decreasing plant uptake of K. It hardens the soil, degrading microbial habitat. If pH is too high, you will have to restrict the amount of potassium to be applied in one application. Any excess is lost.

We at Kiwi Fertiliser have the skills to improve your farming business beyond your expectations.


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