Producers should focus on soils this autumn, to help maximise grassland potential next spring. So says Wynnstay’s Sarah Evans, who adds that producers should be looking to improve grassland quality now because it will have a direct impact on productivity, profitability and feeding regimes in the spring. “And the initial starting point should always be the soil.
“Ensuring that soil is the correct pH makes a huge difference to the productive potential of grassland,” explains Miss Evans. “Yet, during the past 30 years, there has been a 50% reduction in the number of producers who lime soils.
“This has led to soils becoming acidic, which significantly impacts nutrient availability, reducing both grass yield and quality, as well as the efficiency of any fertiliser applications.”
She says regular assessment is key to establish when lime needs to be applied. “It’s important to carry out regular pH testing alongside soil sampling, on a field-by-field basis, to establish where any pH imbalances and nutrient deficiencies may be.”
The target grassland soil pH is between 6.3 and 6.5 and regular applications of lime are usually needed to redress lime losses and acid build-up.
In addition to ensuring optimum nutrient availability, Miss Evans adds that other benefits of achieving target soil pH include increased organic matter and earthworm activity, which helps to improve soil structure.
She also suggests aerating soils that have become dry and compacted during the summer. “This will encourage rapid grass growth in spring, because it helps soils to warm up quicker, as well as allowing space for oxygen and water to permeate deeper and reach grass roots. It’ll also improve drainage and reduce slurry and fertiliser run off,” she adds.