|Carbon Positive Farming
with Peter Burton
Functional Fertiliser Ltd
It may take a year or two for the changes to become apparent, however pastoral soil fertility practices by 2025 will be markedly different to those of today.
The demise of Overseer as the foundation on which the current water-soluble phosphorus and synthetic nitrogen programmes are based ushers in a new system, one which in time will prove to be superior in all respects.
The questions asked will be: “why didn’t it work, and why did it take so long to be replaced?” The answer is that although Overseer evolved logically over time the base was never sound.
It has been described as a commercial tool that was designed to help farmers make money by maximizing the milk or meat they gained from using artificial fertiliser.
In the short term it delivered, but there was a fundamental flaw. The reliance on regular applications of synthetic N as the driver of pasture growth steadily destroys soil carbon.
Landcare Research has the research that shows that to be the case however the real measure is annual pasture growth and total farm performance.
Carbon is the fundamental driver of growth and although there is probably a ceiling to annual production of permanent grazed pastures, performance can become more resilient.
Where carbon is being continuously sequestered, soils hold more moisture and nutrient which are released steadily throughout the season.
This means the difference in total growth in a year where climatic conditions are favourable and a season when rainfall is scarce, or too plentiful, becomes less, and more easily managed.
Pasture growth also tends to be more even with dry frosty conditions having less impact on winter performance.
Growth slows more gradually entering a dry period and recovers more quickly when rain does arrive resulting in less supplement being required.
In both situations, the period during which extra supplement is necessary is shortened reducing costs, labour inputs, and wear and tear on machinery.
The new system is based on the process of synthesis where the outcome is greater than the sum of the parts and therefore less rigid than the current prescriptive approach.
It will provide scientists with endless projects working out why it works as well as it does, along with the understanding required to drive the system forward.
As to why it has taken so long for the flaw in the current synthetic N driven system to be exposed is probably best explained in the following piece from The Carbon Cycle by Ridzon and Walters. “Too many of our scientists make it life’s habit to lock their intellects into the airtight compartment called conventional wisdom. Any discoveries they find have to be made within the parameters of that system.”
It’s not a criticism so much of individual scientists as the system that provides their long-term employment.
Currently capable committed researchers spend up to half their time crafting projects they hope will receive sufficient funding to pay their salaries for the coming year.
Waiting for new findings is unnecessary as many farmers are already aware of others within their locality that are applying synthetic nitrogen at lower rates than previously and also extending the intervals between applications.
Bacteria on the nodules of clover as well as organisms that fix nitrogen directly from the atmosphere have the ability to provide more nitrogen than is necessary for exceptional pasture performance.
The extra is stored with carbon providing a reservoir that is drawn on during the times of the year when clovers are not actively fixing.
The shift from old to new can be made seamlessly. Functional Fertiliser has the products and knowledge necessary to ensure up to double the clover content of pastures over summer.
For more information, contact Peter on: 0800 843 809.