The answers to your soil and fertiliser questions

The answers to your soil and fertiliser questions

Friday, October 28, 2011

The British Grassland Society was recently commissioned by Morrisons to develop a uniquely-styled report that provides answers to questions on soils and fertilisers, which were asked by its dairy farmer suppliers.

The format, with a short answer and detailed answer to of 54 questions, features in the latest Morrisons Farming Programme publication: Grassland soils and fertilisers - digging out the answers.

These include: "Ploughing to improve soil condition - what are the pros and cons?"; "How much N,P,K and Lime to use for different soil types and production targets and how to match this to milk yield and meat liveweight gain?" and "What are the economics of applying more N against using alternative products?" 

Where possible an economic context to show cost implications for farm businesses is given, along with a series of action points to help farmers make improvements on the ground.

Morrisons Head of Agriculture David Evans said: "We know that over 60% of fields in Britain are in a poor or moderate condition so there's huge scope for farmers to improve the mainstay of any livestock farm.

"Although a lot of the information is already out there, what farmers told us is it's not easy to find it, and even harder to cut through all the paperwork to find the answers you really want.

"By working together we've come up with what we believe is a unique format that has real potential to help farmers take the necessary steps to get even more out of their grass on farm. That's good news for them and for the environment."

The report is based on knowledge gained from conventional science but it also includes information on alternative products and advice, often called "muck and magic", that are offering good results on some farms.

Arla dairy farmer John Cook, from Scarborough, said: "This report will help farmers enhance their most sustainable asset; soil and its fertility. All too often farmers are give reports which are just too long and academically focussed. Farmers simply don't have time to read them and therefore much valuable information is missed.

"The format and layout of this report allows farmers to find the information they need quickly and easily, without having to wade through pages and pages of information. Real issues are addressed with concise answers in plain English."

Dr George Fisher of the British Grassland Society led a team of experts answering farmers' questions. He added: "The report gives a short answer to each of the questions that farmers asked of us. For some farmers this will be enough to answer their query or to check their grassland and soil management is on track, but if they want to know more or need the information to make changes, they can find that in the more detailed answers.

"All the answers, written and reviewed by some of the experts from our network of members, focus on giving research and science backed information, and we point out occasionally where this doesn't exist. This independent information will be valuable in helping farmers make the right decisions on products and field treatments to achieve optimum production for their grass and forage and to protect the environment."  

The idea for Grassland soils and fertilisers - digging out the answers came from farmers at a meeting of the Morrisons/Arla Producer Group. The report which totals 150 pages of A4 content, including tables, photos and diagrams,  is being distributed free to all dairy farmers who supply milk to Morrisons through Arla Foods. Arla milk producers and staff, Morrisons staff and BGS staff made up the review team for the project (see photo). 

Free copies will also be made available to farmers who complete a short questionnaire at many agricultural events attended by BGS or Morrisons.


BGS Members BGS is a membership organisation which acts as a communication forum, through events and publications, for the profitable and sustainable use of grass and forage.

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