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  • Writer's pictureSoil Fertility Services

Spring Sprung - Now The Drought!

So, in spite of everything, spring still sprung – eventually!

Crops are now drilled and with the little rain recently growth will be FAST.

The problems ‘down the road’ are:

Because of the excessive rain over winter, the soil structure is terrible, which means poor rooting and poor access to nutrition. This means many crops are now low in Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and Boron.

What this means is your crops will be prone to disease with weak straw strength, leaf disease pressure will be high with Fusarium and Septoria, plus the usual Rust and even insect damage will be higher.

We appreciate how difficult it is to justify any expenditure on a crop you do not know the value of and we are of the opinion ‘If in doubt – DON’T’; however, we have continued to research and develop the ‘biologicals’ and results are very positive. We have put together a consortium that will improve availability and increase uptake of Potassium, plus provide a protective barrier against some of these soil-borne diseases. Apply only 5 lt/ha when you go through, available in 20 lt tubs. Phone for a price - It could be as low as £10 per hectare £4 per acre.

For OSR: Vitaplex Special Mix (specifically for OSR), with the anti Sclerotinia (Amy consortium), plus Boron. Why Boron? The Boron acts like the oil in an engine, allowing all minerals to move around the plant, especially important for Calcium which in turn strengthens the cellular structure in your crop (and you), similar to your bone’s requirement. It also helps pod set and fill.


We supply BetterGrass to provide the essential minerals for your livestock, well, are you not just as important?

YOU also need these essential minerals, especially important to increase your immune system that will allow your body to counter this nasty virus. You should take Selenium, Seaweed (kelp) for the Iodine, Magnesium and Boron to get it all moving & Zinc and Vitamin D for boosting your immune system. I personally add Vitamin C & garlic, and believe this keeps me safe from colds, flu and general viruses. At the very least take the ones that boost your immune system as you need to help yourself as much as possible.

See: article by John Kempf in his blog: “Earlier this year, I wrote the post: Selenium for Coronavirus, Agriculture for Public Health, where I hypothesized that selenium sufficiency could be a useful and powerful tool to reduce susceptibility to enveloped viral infections, including coronavirus. That link has now been found and validated. Emerging research indicates there is indeed a connection between selenium status within a population and Covid 19 cure rate. You can read a popular article describing the findings.”

Your plants are no different, give them the minerals and they will have a stronger immunity to disease. Now we can add a range of beneficial micro-organisms that will help to combat Fusarium, Septoria, Rhizoctonia and others. We also have products that will stop Club Root and replace Copper fungicide in organic potatoes.

Bio-Logical farming HAS to be the future – We simply cannot continue to chuck chemicals around as we have in the past. Just think about your own farming inputs; in the last 10 years have you increased your spend on chemicals, herbicides, pesticides? If so, do you have less disease, weeds, pests? Is your soil healthier? With improved drainage? More earthworms? Organic Carbon - is it going up or down?

Our George used to say:

“You have to earn the right to go to biological farming”.

Are you still treating the symptoms and not the cause?


Steps to take NOW!

Commit a minimum of 100 hectares to go biological; we will then soil sample, plant tissue sample, draw up a three year plan of action and monitor your soil and crops throughout.


A Message from Nick

If you’ve been reading our newsletter for a while then you’ll have seen how much we believe in biological farming. Some of you are organic, others conventional. Some plough whilst others direct drill, many are somewhere in between. Our clients have the full spectrum of soil types, from heaviest clay to lightest sand.

You’re growing your crops in some pretty adverse conditions, and these seem to becoming more frequent with climate change. You may have to contend with more flooding and droughts than you ever have before and the challenges that they will bring.

For many years, chemistry has dominated agriculture. Be it the ‘cides’ or fertilisers, the answer has often been to bypass the soil and treat the growing crop, often with diminishing results. Are we seeing the beginning of the end for this approach? I think we are and UK agriculture needs to be proactive about this rather than reactive.

So why is biological farming important to you? For me, it’s a simple answer... Resilience. You need your soil to be the primary part of the system that can be relied on to provide the support network, and that means doing everything you can to look after it; to minimise anything that might reduce its ability to work effectively. This is not something that can be done in one year, or with a magic potion that sorts all your problems immediately. It’s a long term goal which will never be perfect but will always be strived towards.

Biological farming is not about hitting max yields whatever the cost or input, it’s about achieving the maximum potential without destroying the underlying systems. It’s about doing what you can to reinforce those biological networks to be resilient to the next challenge, be it improving disease resistance, availability of nutrition or carbon storage.

Our approach is to use a range of biological products, inoculants and nutrition to suit your farming situation. Yes, there is a cost to this as there is with everything, which is why it’s all backed up with detailed soil and tissue analysis.

Farming biologically WILL be what we all have to do in the future; the question is whether you will be helping to pull the bandwagon, or following somewhere behind?



A Message from Steve

Harmful bacteria, viruses and fungal pathogens can be thought of as ‘the invading army’, full of thieves and thugs or at the very least, opportunistic protesters with their own agenda. Pathogens can cause plant disease and nutrient lock-up when they invade, but a healthy plant ‘city’ has its own natural defences against these attacking un-desirables.

The cell wall is ‘the city’s’ physical defence and a strong healthy cell wall makes it harder for pathogens to get inside. On top of this is the cuticle, a waxy surface coating that tries to keep pathogens out and provides a weatherproof coating against the elements. It’s a bit like Border Control where vehicles get stopped and inspected for contraband, but pathogens are sneaky and opportunistic, show any weakness and they are in - a damaged cell through water uptake or even by the wind.

Some pathogens will puncture the plant tissue by growing through cell walls and others use enzymes to dissolve their way in. From there they steal food and resources, using the plant’s cells to copy their own genetic material, reproducing and releasing toxins that damage the plant cells.

This ‘city’ wall must work on several different levels, on one hand keeping out the pathogens whilst at the same time letting in food but here is where many of the defences fall - unless you employ the troops to defend your boarders.

Imagine the scenario:

An Insect flies in from a neighbouring crop, looking to feed itself on the leaf. It carries with it pathogens picked up beforehand from an ailing plant, much like a helicopter dropping off attacking troops who then set up base camp before going about their mischief. Left unchecked, this group will attack and invade the city, spreading disease and stealing resources. So, what is the first line of defence? It’s the home guard! Otherwise known as leaf-colonising, phyllosphere bacteria. (Phyllospere is the total above-ground portions of plants as habitat for micro-organisms)

These are different to the invaders, in that they have a vested interest in defending their patch, after all the plant has provided them with food and shelter and now it’s time for them to return the favour.

These bacteria have spent their time building the mutually beneficial relationship with the plant; some fix nutrients, others aid plant repair, whilst still others commute to work down through the city’s transport system into the rhizosphere and because many of these bacteria operate in several different roles, when the time comes that your city needs you to do your duty, the troops (bacteria) are rallied.

Upon invasion these beneficial bacteria will signal the early warning to the plant to “close the gates” (stomata) in an attempt to prevent pathogens entering ‘the city’. Research has identified several strains of Bacillus as being antifungal - against the plant pathogens. This antibiotic fungal bio-control can act as your defending army both above and below ground.

A healthy city rises to the challenge and in response cell walls are strengthened with extra protein and carbohydrate making it more difficult for pathogens to get inside the cells. Plant chemical defences are activated to manufacture anti-microbial substances that destroy the pathogens, plants can even sacrifice parts of itself as healthy cells around the infection commit suicide hoping to stop the infection spreading through the plant.

Biological farming involves having the right troops to call upon when required; for plants, staying healthy is a never-ending battle against pathogen attack, so a healthy home guard is essential to its survival. Why not parachute in some additional reinforcements, bolstering the plants defences? You are fighting an enemy that is often invisible until it is too late. Sclerotinia, Fusarium, and Pythium will NOT proclaim their arrival, but you can prepare in advance your natural defences.

We don’t suggest that Biological farming is the only solution, but it should be thought of as another weapon in your ‘farming army’.



Testing, Testing, Testing!

Plants are very much like us humans in that that they don’t function as well on a poor diet; as a grower, you will want your crop to perform to the best of its ability and that is why you must feed accordingly.

When you look at a crop you might see discolouration to the leaf, root abnormalities, poor growth areas, old leaves dying, new leaves dying, weak floppy plants, scorched leaf edges, shrivelled grains, fewer tillers etc etc. Don’t let your eyes deceive you, an example is Nitrogen and Sulphur; these deficiency symptoms can appear very similar.

If you have an abundance of one nutrient it can induce a deficiency of another, for example: you see what you think looks like a Zinc deficiency, but this could be caused by excessive Phosphate levels. A less healthy, weakened crop will be more susceptible to other stresses, so it may also be the case that the plant is looking a little off colour from other factors like drought, disease, herbicide residues, insect pressure or soil compaction - all of which can manifest visually.

In Fact, what you actually see could quite often be the result of multiple deficiencies, toxicities and stresses, all occurring at the same time. But just to throw a spanner in the works, plants can also be deficient without showing any visual symptoms at all!

The point is, if you only visually identify symptoms you may not get the complete picture. So what is the solution?

Take the samples and let the lab tell you exactly what nutrition the plant does or does not have. Getting the plant’s nutrition right, is the key to keeping your crop fighting fit. It is SO important to NOT give the pathogens and diseases a chance in the first place. Applying the right nutrients at the right time will provide your crop with the nutritional tools it needs to fight against disease pressure and grow well.


Soils are in a poor condition after the winter deluge, with some 100,000 tonnes per hectare of rain putting the soil down tight. This has driven all of the air out and now the drought has caused these dry blocks which nothing can live in.

So what do we do about it? Assuming you managed to get a crop established then obviously you hope there will be enough grain to justify putting the combine in, then - only if it is dry enough, remove the straw and sell it.

Next, only if you can, put in a subsoiler to loosen the soil allowing the air back in. This is not a quick fix as to start with you have simply moved these big blocks of soil around, they are still big blocks.

The next step is to apply the Bio-Mulch at 50lt/ha. This will feed the soil and the soil will feed the plant. Bio-Mulch contains Humic SC which will improve water infiltration with humic & fulvic compounds from the vermicompost extract plus amino nitrogen in a carbon base, together with trace elements and the full range of Megabacters, to ‘fix’ Phosphate and provide root growth stimulants.



This soil has been wrecked and will need more than a plough to restore health this Autumn.



The BetterGrass season is now behind us; after the crazy wet weather, the dry cold spring has meant slow growth and in a few cases caused scorching in the leaf with short term excessive levels in the grass.

By now, after some rain - although not enough, it is growing again but we will not be able to get around to seeing you for a while, so please send us your samples of fresh grass and when available cut grass and I very much look forward to seeing your results.

You will need a sampling kit, so ring the office and we will send it to you. 01366 384899


Aunt Aggie she say: “What is this ‘lert’ tha’ we all ‘ave ter be?

Granfa he say: “You bin a bit of a ‘lert’ all ya life!”


A Message from Robert

Is the weather really changing?

There is some new evidence from interpretation of sun spots, which seemingly can be traced to coincide with weather patterns that predict a return to colder, more extreme conditions – hotter highs & colder colds, wets and drys. Research: twitter: charlesScottGSM

Will the current crisis help people to value farming and where and how their food is sourced?

I would like to think so but it may depend on how long it goes on for.

If we have a low yield harvest, (and I think we will), and milling wheat is at a premium price – which it needs to be, and bread prices go up a few pence, then you will hear some shouting. If at the same time Cauliflower and other veg are a bit short, then maybe?

But then if beef and milk are still over supplied, until we have a real shortage and cannot import cheap food from the Eastern Countries, then we will see a panic. Maybe then the Government will take a different stance and value our home production.

We may be only 60% self-sufficient overall, but we are 100% sufficient on the staples. It is the ‘out of season’ fruit and veg we cannot supply – Well so what? Let’s eat our UK grown food!

On the ‘home front’

We are all well and staying out of harms way, personally I think it’s all been handled very badly. Firstly, what is the cost going to be to our younger generation? Then locking people up in care homes and letting them die alone, that’s not caring.

Lack of protective clothing? It just make me angry. We were warned! We need to learn to cope with death, it is the most natural thing, not strive to keep people hanging on, ‘alive’ at any cost. I DO NOT want to die but nor do I want to be kept alive, that isn’t living. Living is having loved ones around you and when you are unable to live, it is having people around you to make the transition as painless and as peaceful as possible.

I could be accused of keeping our Nichola alive, but she is still very much enjoying living! She has a wonderful sense of humour and recently joined us to attend her daughter’s wedding.

She thoroughly enjoyed her day. She is pretty much paralysed and needs her carers to make her comfortable, but if she should deteriorate and lose her ability to communicate or have a serious infection, she does NOT want to be propped up in a hospital or care home bed; better for her to move on - her views NOT mine. I just happen to agree with her!

This pandemic is pretty horrible, try to stay away from it and concentrate on building your own immune system. A vaccine will be found and we will overcome it - same as many other diseases but we have to try to help ourselves.



Newsletter Issue No.61

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