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Growers Urged to Look Closely at Soil Health as Part of Free Survey

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In order to optimise gross margins growers should fully understand their soil health status by surveying key indicators such as organic matter and microbial life, says leading agronomy firm Hutchinsons, and is encouraging growers to take advantage of a free sampling service currently on offer.
Soil health is a key asset for our ability to grow high yielding, quality crops. However over the last few decades, farm practices have resulted in a decline in diversity of both cropping and cultivation techniques. This, in turn, has caused a significant deterioration of soil health and resilience, which will continue to have a negative impact on yields if we do not address it, says Hutchinsons agronomist Ed Brown.

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“There are huge benefits to be gained from taking a more holistic approach to crop production, and if we are to continue to push for higher yields, we need to address our biggest asset, the soil, as part of our broader crop management.”

In order to encourage growers to fully understand the condition of their soils, Hutchinsons will be conducting a free survey of soil health that is available to 100 growers across the west midlands.

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“This will involve a member of the Hutchinsons team taking samples from fields, which will then be tested for organic matter, pH, P, K, Mg, Sulphur and trace element levels, as well as cation exchange capacity and soil texture classification. We will also carry out a worm count and visual soil assessment,” adds Geoff Bastard of Hutchinsons, who is also carrying out the survey work.

“Tests for organic matter and microbial life are important as they are key indicators of soil health. Organic matter, amongst other things, determines the nutrient and water holding capacity of the soil and is an important factor in soil structure; it is also the main feed source for microbial life and micro-organisms.”

“Earthworms are also a very good indicator of soil health and they play a beneficial role in the environment.”

Each farmer will receive their own copy of their individual results and will also be invited to a breakfast meeting where we will present the results for the region. Dick Neale, Hutchinsons technical manager, will be at the meeting and will discuss the results, identifying the detrimental impact that some practices are having on soil health. Most importantly Mr Neale will be advising on the best ways to enhance and improve the health of our soils.

For growers in north Shropshire, south Cheshire, and the Welsh Borders contact Geoff Bastard on mobile: 07423 467879 or if you are in the mid-north Shropshire or south Staffordshire areas contact Ed Brown on mobile: 07583 019273.

Hutchinsons technical manager Dick Neale, has recently created a short series of videos examining the cultivation effects on soil structure at The National Blackgrass Centre, Brampton, Cambridgeshire. The videos also demonstrate oilseed rape establishment with the Micro-Wing technique and the successful use of winter cover crops for weed control, soil conditioning and improving soil nutrition to benefit following crop establishment. To watch these videos please go to www.hlhltd.co.uk