Soil Health – Where do I begin?
As the end of harvest is in sight for most, it is the ideal time to do some soil sampling to help inform the nutrient strategy for next season. UK soils must be tested every 5 years under the Farming Rules for Water, but don’t let legislation be the only reason to test your soils.
Basic soil analysis will give you P, K, Mg and pH, which is a good start but there are a lot of other important nutrients that can cause issues if deficient. Getting the basics right is important, this includes ensuring the correct pH, identifying your P and K indices and organic matter levels. On top of that, knowing the levels of micronutrients will also be useful to plan fertiliser strategies and budgets for the coming year.
We hear a lot about soil health, but where do you begin, what metrics should you be using? By taking a broad-spectrum soil sample you’ll get all the data mentioned before, but there is still an element that is missing – microorganisms! These are vital for a number of processes in the soil including enabling nutrient availability and breaking down material into organic matter to name a couple.
There are a few tests that can be carried out in the lab to begin to monitor your soil’s ‘health’. The Solvita Test is a test of how much respiration, and therefore ‘life’, there is in your soil. A low score shows that the soil is lacking something these microorganisms require e.g. oxygen due to lack of soil pores caused by compaction. Whereas a high score shows a good level of organisms present which improve the soil, making it more fertile. Another test is the Labile Amino Nitrogen test (SLAN) which measures the biologically associated nitrogen that is present as amino carbohydrates.
So, if you’re not yet monitoring your soil health these tests are a good way to start, you can then monitor over time whether they are generally improving or if specific practices are having a positive/negative effect on your soil.
For more information on soil sampling or any Yara products then please visit yara.co.uk/agronomy-advice/