with Brett Petersen
Kiwi Fertiliser & Golden Bay Dolomite
Most farms in NZ have adopted a chemical approach to soil fertility.
This has evolved because the farmers own shares in fertiliser cooperatives.
For some reason, the farmers think the co-ops are the best option when it comes to fertiliser. But the wheels are rapidly falling off this theory as climate change accelerates, soil and water degradation increases, and regulations are strengthened.
The “use the cheapest one” and “put more on” mantras are not related to reality.
Enter the regeneration movement. Most of the adherents have boarded this train as they have noticed the co-op model was not working.
Most of them have abandoned fertiliser almost entirely and are relying on diverse species of plants to restore fertility.
The lure of free natural inputs is hard to resist. I note most of them use carcinogenic chemical herbicides to get their diverse pastures started, as a “lesser of two evils.” (The other evil being cultivation, but cultivation does not cause cancer.) However, diversity is paramount for any enterprise involving the soil.
The academics at universities collectively push the chemical model as it was expedient. Each university ended up with a financial sponsor.
A private-public partnership that still exists today. Long term consequences were not considered.
Most of us have come from a background of applying fertiliser under these very “political” rules. The reality for soil, plant, animal, human and farmer bank-balance health is not at all rosy.
Most farmers show little inclination to change anything and that is to their personal detriment.
Kiwi Fertiliser has never used fixed NPK recipes but recommends what the soil needs based on the PAL soil tests.
We work with the base saturation of the soil, ensuring that calcium and magnesium are optimal as well as using more benign NPK products that do not disrupt soil microbes as many NPK products do.
The sciences of chemistry, physical soil structure, and biology are all and always considered in recommendations.
Plants and microbes form special relationships with each other. Genetic potential of plants cannot be reached if biology and diversity are compromised.
Not only does the underground workforce struggle, but so does the above ground flora and fauna.
This is expressed via pests and diseases that are favoured by adverse conditions, instead of the balanced environment that should exist on every farm and orchard.
Keep it in the ground
Kiwi Fertiliser aims to build carbon in the soil, not the atmosphere. We use mitigating substances such as humates and biochar to buffer microbes from any unintended consequences.
Nitrogen stimulates microbes. Bacteria are a 5:1 C:N ratio. For each 1 part of N consumed, they need 5 parts of C to balance the diet.
If it is not supplied, they will take it from organic matter. OM will decrease and water infiltration rates and holding capacity is impacted with serious consequences.
We have other ways of replacing N, such as using Terragen Great Land microbes that are an effective way of stimulating plant growth and quality.
When nitrogen is correctly employed, it will be measured in the leaf and soil tests, not in the waterways.