What Was All That About An Ark?
You might think we’ve had a message straight from Noah, it does feel like a great flood around the Country with consequences for soils and crops, I just took these couple of pics on my way home, they’re not the worst by a long way but do allow me to make a point on what to do.
This is a medium-light sandy clay loam and is normally free draining. It is now slumped, has no air, no life and cannot grow a healthy crop.
Cropping - The ground is wet - well, more to the point is totally water-logged and after all this rain it is compacted and anaerobic. This means rooting will be restricted and there will be little, if any, beneficial soil life. So what can you do about it? Where you do have a crop, you can wake things up using Mega-Fos at an application of 5 lt/ha but now with an additional 5 litres of soil conditioner, making 10 lt/ha. The cost is £2.50/litre which equates to £25 per hectare.
The Mega-Fos will stimulate root growth, feed the soil and improve water infiltration; it contains the beneficial micro-organisms that will help protect your crop from soil-borne pathogens.
Where NO crops have been drilled, again these soils will be tight and anaerobic - You cannot disturb them but they do need feeding. We recommend you use Humic SC (the ‘SC’ stands for Soil Conditioner). It includes the Megabacter army, which will supply the root growth stimulant and provide phosphate. Ideally apply it pre-drilling or as soon after as is possible.
Maybe you’re still wondering what to grow - A mix of spring crops is probably best - Malting barley; spring high-protein wheat; beans; linseed; even spring OSR; just keep it low cost, even a short term ley would be good for the soil but you need something to eat the grass.
Using toxic chemical to rescue the crops is much the same as us using antibiotics, if used too much the bacteria evolve, become resistant and the treatments will no longer work. The good thing is, if we supply good nutrition with the beneficial microbes, they can then outcompete the undesirable bacteria – the pathogens. So now we have come full circle, Bio-Logical Farming means - Restoring health to your soil, your crops, your livestock, plus YOU and ME!
As I’ve said before, our George always said: “You have to earn the right to become biological” he was right; it’s not a case of “let’s do a tramline strip with a ‘magic potion’”. It REALLY is a TOTAL change of mind set and then following the programme. We can get good results quickly, or it might take some time, the answer is to ‘ask’ the plant, then feed little and often of what’s required using humic / fulvic / seaweed / and essential trace minerals.
How can a biological product fix pH in the soil? Actually, it is exactly what specific types of micro-organisms do! The plant dictates what is going on, sending the correct combination of sugars and minerals into the soil to feed the microbes living in the rhizosphere. These will adjust the pH (power of hydrogen) toward 6.3 which is the best pH level for grass growth.
This all happens only in the rooting zone, IT DOES NOT ALTER THE pH of the soil!
What Do We Mean By The Term ‘Biological Farming’?
Bio – This means living, life in your soil, in your livestock and in your own gut.
Logical – Because when you learn a little about it, it is just ‘logical’ – it makes sense.
We like to consider ourselves to be ‘top’ of the Evolutional tree and what makes us so, is our advanced brain giving us the ability to communicate and to think but however great your brain is, your knowledge and communication skills still rely on the rest of your body and your body is completely dependent on the ‘life’ in your body. This ‘life’ consists of a range of beneficial micro-organisms. For the most part these micro-organisms are bacteria; every part of our body’s rely on this micro-biome of which by far the majority live in your intestinal tract, where they speed up the breakdown of food you eat and allow your body’s organs to create the hormones that release the vitamins that feed your brain. and the rest of your body.
This ‘micro life’ needs to be the beneficial microbes, but sometimes things go wrong and you get infected by pathogens – the bacteria that does you harm and can make you really ill, in some cases even kill. You certainly need to keep this microbiome healthy and that means getting the correct balance of minerals in the food you eat. It is exactly the same with livestock, they need the correct range and balance of minerals or these important microbes will not function adequately and much of the forage eaten will simply be lost – passed out the back end with no benefit to your stock.
These minerals need to be in your grass and IN BALANCE! If any one mineral is too high or too low it will affect the rumen adversely, which is why BetterGrass improves animal health.
The same principle applies to your soil, in fact the soil is in effect the stomach of your plant; it works like this:
Inside the long intestinal tube which is your gut, is a lining made up of tiny hair like structures called Villi. When you look at the root of a plant, they also have these tiny little hairs (but on the outside) - just like the Villi. The plant creates sugars from the leaf and much of this gets transported through the plant via structures called Xylem and Phloem (Xylem carry water and minerals from the roots to the leaves while Phloem carry sugars & other organic nutrients made by the plant from the leaves to the rest of the plant), into the roots and out of the Villi, thus creating a food source for the bacteria in the soil, which in turn breaks down the minerals in the soil, allowing the plant to take them in. As with humans and livestock, if these bacteria are not there or are the wrong kind (pathogens), then your crops will be diseased.
Sugar Beet And Root Crops
It is traditional to apply a salt-based fertiliser to ALL ground where sugar beet is planned. This is usually applied in the Autumn, whilst soil conditions will allow the applications by big fertiliser spreaders. A lot of ground has been treated by the time the rain comes and makes it impossible to travel; and where do you think that salt-based fertiliser is then? Totally gone, out with the water!
This application style was based on the idea that sodium would increase the cell wall in the leaf, thereby increasing surface area to accept more radiation, which would increase sugar content. In fact 50 kg salt was worth 50 kg sugar.
Now we can do the same thing with an application of Humic SC pre-drilling. This will improve root structure, release locked-up phosphate and get your plants off to a flying start. Then apply a starter dressing of nitrogen fertiliser, to be followed by the biological nitrogen fixer Bio-N (at just 10 lt/ha), this will then fix all of the nitrogen your crop requires, plus increase sugar content. This is the same for ALL root vegetables including carrots.
Bio-N will fix 100+ kg per acre of natural nitrogen - Very low cost and no carbon footprint. This will be good for your soil improvement plan.
BetterGrass - Still Does What It Says!
The BetterGrass Liquid product has proven popular with lower cost and easier application; a single 900 litre IBC will treat 45 acres, which means you have more flexibility and can treat different areas with different products as required. The mini sprayer is a really useful tool for this - even for bigger farms as you can do small fields when you want to, just hook onto your quad and off you go. Also, for split applications and it is much easier to clean than a big sprayer. Admittedly, if you have 200 hectares to do then it is not practical but at only £1400 or so, it really is a handy tool to have on farm.
Results for our new BetterGrass Liquid product have been similar to those of the BetterGrass Granular mix and stock are still getting their minerals in every bite they take - as they should; if you have not yet had your silage tested then get it done now. Call the office and ask us to send your bags: 01366 384899
The above forage analysis shows when our client sampled a field that had not been treated with BetterGrass; the mineral balances were all over the place. Using the BetterGrass Granular mix the minerals were better managed and more in balance, however, he then changed to the BetterGrass Liquid but was worried about the balances - As you can see, he need not have.
If your grass analysis shows a lack of calcium, then we may need to apply some in the form of Calciprill; the calcium shown in the soil test is not relevant for your grass requirements, but only to indicate the likely effect on the structure and health of your soil.
Complex Liquid Feed
By complexing the amino nitrogen with phosphate and magnesium, the ammonia is stabilised and only releases slowly as rumen bacteria convert it to high quality protein. Add seaweed, beneficial minerals and vitamins and you improve the health of your stock, whilst also increasing conversion rates.
Pour into a watering can, then onto the bales, leave to soak for a bit and Voila! Watch the cows - all the proof needed.
The Man Shed
I have been involved in the soil fertility industry for 50 years now and during that time have witnessed many changes. Back in the 1930’s ICI and Fisons were the BIG players; Nitram had just come onto the market and ICI were pushing this out to grassland farmers, encouraging them to put on 400 plus units per acre – 500 kg of nitrogen per hectare with total disregard to soil health or indeed animal health. Sure it would grow a lot of grass but the cows didn’t do so well on this high nitrogen forage. But ICI sold a lot of Nitram and then they ‘sold out’ themselves. The brand remains on the market with CF Fertilisers but they don’t make the same claims. Fisons also ‘sold out’ and Norsk Hydro, who had cheap electricity in Norway, continues today as Yara.
In those crazy days of hot summers, a lot of work was done into plant breeding and yields quickly increased from around 5tonnes per hectare to 10 tonnes per hectare and have plateaued there for the past 10 years or so. Cost of production has gone up with ever increasing amounts of chemicals being applied, including glyphosate and a plethora of fungicides and insecticides, in fact the Era of the Cides’ took over farming and your soil has been poisoned ever since. It’s only now we are beginning to really understand the importance of ‘Life in the soil’ and ‘Life in the gut’.
So, into 2020 with Bio (living) - Logical (because it is) Farming and using the natural, biological army of protectants and health providers, to grow healthy crops at low cost. This really is the start of a new Era as we can now use nitrogen-fixing micro-organisms to provide up to 200 kg per hectare of natural nitrogen – not much from the 70,000 kg you have over every hectare of your farm – and it is yours; plus micro-organisms that are plant antibiotics to prevent disease and promote plant health with natural growth promoters.
This really is the most exciting time to be in the soil fertility business as we learn how to make your soils really fertile once more.
Best of luck for the 2020 season
An Update On Nichola
I would like to thank you for your kind words regarding our Nichola who sends HER best wishes also.
She is happy and is able to communicate much better now. The operation to remove her cyst cannot now go ahead, so we will keep her comfortable and move forward with other plans.
News from ‘Down Under’
I’ve been told that several people have asked about our family in view of the dreadful weather situation in Oz currently, thanks to everyone for their concerns, on writing this, our family are all safe. Bega (where we are) is the main point for people to evacuate to so is the safest place here. There has been a number of houses and grassland burnt to the north and south of Bega but mostly bush areas. I'm back at work following our Christmas break and have been busy because many of our customers have had grass and fences burnt. Tragically one of our customer's and his son were killed in a fast moving fire.
We haven't had a fire this serious in the area since 1952. It has been so dry for all of NSW, QLD and most of Victoria this last year and then a few hot days really got the fires going. We've had a little bit of rain last week which will help dampen things but we need a lot now as our dams and rivers are low. Here's a link to the NSW fire map which shows the outline of the areas burnt and the area size:
(Other State maps are also available).
Wishing you all in the UK a Happy New Year.
From The ‘West’
After a crazy, wet and very miserable autumn/winter, most of the ground in the West is saturated. Even the smallest amount of rain in Herefordshire washes straight off fields and is flooding our roads. It seems that very few places are any different.
However, take a spade out and often it’s only the top few inches which is swampy. Underneath, the earthworms are still active as it’s been so mild.
Humic SCG will penetrate that layer and allow water to infiltrate away through the soil. Check out the website for our video showing how powerful it can be. It really is quite surprising and worth a look. www.soilfertilityservices.co.uk
Obviously it’s too wet to apply now, but you’re going to need something to ‘switch on’ the soils as spring comes and the Humic SCG is the way. Get it on farm early ready to apply as soon as conditions are good to travel.
Newsletter Issue No.60