Final: Is our food still thy medicine?

Better soils
with Brett Petersen
Kiwi Fertiliser & Golden Bay Dolomite

The last two articles have measured the decline of nutrition in our food over the past 80 years.

This is a worldwide phenomenon. I will touch on why it has happened and what can be done about it.

Most farmers have been taught to use the cheapest source of NPK.

That produces substandard food. Most trace elements are neglected altogether or under supplied at best.

In New Zealand, the major employers of soil fertility advisors merely sell what their employers’ stock.

This does not bear any resemblance to what the soil needs in most cases.

The input products are repeated year after year.

The results are degraded soils with very little microbial diversity.

Lack of diversity leads to lower quality and quantity of produce, brought on by fertility imbalances. An excess of any nutrient, usually NPK, will ensure deficiencies of others. When trace elements are not applied, food quality and quantity suffer.

At Kiwi Fertiliser, we consistently promote actions that improve soil quality. It all starts in the soil. Without a balanced soil, quality cannot happen.

Those on our program for a few years are not usually bothered by things such as facial eczema, pests, mineral deficiencies, diseases, or low conception rates, even when the neighbours are. The bottom line is improved, and farming becomes a pleasure, not a struggle.

It is working with nature at its best. That does not mean we cannot improve.

Miraka has more than 100 suppliers and two lists of 10 farms each; one for farms with the best milk quality and the other for the lowest somatic cell count of the milk produced.

Kiwi Fertiliser services six farms that supply Miraka. Both lists include four Kiwi Fertiliser farms. Those six per cent of farms are contributing to 40 per cent of the top-quality milk.

Superior pasture and diverse species can be baled for silage within four days in June and July.

The key is to grow quality forage.

When the phosphate, calcium, magnesium and boron are at correct levels in the plants, the plants are packed with sugars, not water.

They are higher in dry matter. When stock eat the forage, baled or not, they respond with extra and faster weight gain or milk and they eat less of it.

There is less wastage. Even the calves can be weaned onto high quality baleage without complaint. Horses show an excellent response too.

Fruit grown with our system tends towards earlier and longer storage capabilities because the nutritional integrity is there. Correctly grown produce, even if cut, will tend not to rot over time.

It will merely dehydrate.

The take home message is feed the soil.

Let the soil feed the plant. This is achieved by using appropriate materials.

These are soil building compounds, not necessarily the cheapest.

Do not use temporary plant-feeding materials that are repeated time and time again. The ones that are more effective are the best investments. Balance the soil properly.

That means chemical or nutrient balance, biological balance and correct physical soil structure that allows the microbes to flourish. Feed the microbes, do not destroy them. It is a medium-term plan that is built upon each year.

It is soil building, not degradation. Everyone consuming your produce will benefit. They will then demand it.


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