with Brett Petersen
Kiwi Fertiliser & Golden Bay Dolomite
Balancing the soil fertility correctly can only be achieved if your consultant has the correct information to work with.
We, at Kiwi Fertiliser, must go off-shore to get this specific information by way of soil audits, and then convert the calculations of kgs/ha of fertilisers to be applied as correct products, not just elements. Once that has been done, the benefits for soil, microbes, plants, animals, profits, and humans start to flow thick and fast. I may refer to dairying, but the principles are the same for orchards and other enterprises.
The soil needs calcium and magnesium to ensure correct structure. Most soil that has 50 per cent of the volume as pore spaces, half for water and half for air, ensures water infiltration and drainage characteristics are optimal, and that they are also optimal for drought conditions. What suits clay or loam, will not suit sand. Each one is different, and sand will need more water retention than clay. When correct, the physical structure enhances the environment for the microbes. On a dairy farm, the pond is a great indicator of the health of the farm and the animals. A clear pond that does not require cleaning indicates the soil, microbes, plants, and animals are all healthy. A pond that crusts with undigested feed that builds on the surface indicates the opposite. Diseases are far more prevalent. This is because disease organisms are largely acid-loving and anaerobic in nature. Those organisms in the soil will be replicated in the animal.
Pests and diseases
Pests and diseases have followed the increased use of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, nitrogen, and chemical fertilisers. This does not mean you cannot use chemicals. Where a supply of say, nitrogen is even, balance is maintained, but when too much is applied in one dose, there will be surplus nitrate and amino acids in the plants that will attract pests, and diseases. This is not the best feed for the animals either, ending up as undigested feed in the pond. Getting the health of the plants right will eliminate animal health and breeding problems and extend animals’ productive longevity. This includes worm and facial eczema problems, as the pastures will become self-medicating. Vet bills and therapeutics will plummet.
The right balance
A healthy balance can be achieved by feeding the soil microbes (mostly animals), as the biology will solubilise the minerals for uptake by the plants. Just feeding plants short-circuits the system, preventing the biology from flourishing. Plants in turn exude soluble solids into the soil to feed those microbes. A greater proportion of the fertilisers applied are then utilised by the plants. If essential animal nutrients are added such as selenium and cobalt, they will be processed by the microbes, taken up by the plants, and then ingested by stock. If the microbes are missing, as they so often are, the minerals will not be reflected in subsequent blood tests. Animal ill-health, conception rates and other problems all diminish.
At Kiwi Fertiliser, we operate Total Replacement Therapy. It requires the soil to be balanced correctly to work. There are no shortcuts, we must start by balancing the major elements in the soil, the minor ones follow when the microbial populations have begun to recover. Then nitrogen applications are decreased. Each farm is different. Certain minerals and biology need to be present and in proportion for nitrogen to be synthesised naturally. The result is a better physical and financial environment at all levels of farming or orcharding.