Agronomy Advice

Going beyond Soil Analysis

Adopting a more precise approach to grassland management has gone beyond a trend and is fast becoming one of the only ways to retain a profit margin that will keep farmers in business.

Yara Agronomist Philip Garland checking the grass with another farmer
Yara Agronomist Philip Garland checking the grass with another farmer

There are many different tactics that  can be listed under the ‘precision agronomy’ banner, but a simple one is undertaking soil analysis.

Why is soil analysis so important?

Undertaking a soil analysis will give you a starting point. It will tell you how healthy your soil currently is and what it needs to improve. It allows you to make decisions based on fact rather than intuition. If you have that factual knowledge, then you can be sure that any investment in inputs is warranted and you may even be able to save money on unnecessary inputs.

Another important consideration in today’s market is that by collecting soil analysis data and thereby planning a more precise application of fertilisers, you will also be making a more environmentally responsible decision.

What Does a Soil Analysis Tell You?

Yara would recommend grassland farmers undertake a full animal health analysis of your soil. That way you’ll get a wider understanding of the nutrient levels necessary for plant growth but also identify nutrients that are important to maintain healthy animals such as selenium.

The full Animal Health Soil Analysis will identify nutrient content levels of: potassium, phosphate, Calcium, Magnesium, sulphur, boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, sodium, cobalt, selenium, Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC), pH and lime requirement.

The key difference between this soil analysis and the usual broad spectrum soil analysis is that it includes assessing selenium levels in the soil.

Benefits of Analysing Forage and Slurry

Many grassland farmers will just stick to testing their soil, but by analysing forage and slurry, you can be even more precise about inputs - both into grass fertilisation as well as herd supplementation.

By analysing the nutrient content of fresh grass and forage, you can be sure of what your animals are ingesting which will mean that you can be more accurate in what supplemental feeds you need to give your animals. In this way you’ll benefit from cost savings in unnecessary supplementation and a healthier herd which may even lead to reduced vet bills.

The two analysis tests you can take of fresh grass and forage include nutrient breakdown of the following:

  • For the L4c test: DM, CP, NDF, Buffer Index, NO3-N, ME, D-Value, Sugars
  • For the L4a test: DM, pH, D-value, NH -N, ME, Sugars, C.P, Ash, 3 NDF, Oil A, Acetic Acid, n Butyric Acid, Tot Ferm. Acids, Lactic Acid

Many grassland farmers will not test their slurry, instead taking the estimated nutrient content from the RB209 nutrient management guide. But slurry can vary widely in its nutrient content so it’s the savvy farmer who tests for accurate nutrient content. This ensures that farmers can:

  • Put together a precise nutrient management plan
  • Make best use of available resources without wasting money on unnecessary fertiliser nutrients therefore saving money
  • Protect the environment from an excess of fertilisation.

Your organic analysis will detail the following nutrient content:

nitrogen, ammonium-nitrogen, nitrate-nitrogen, potassium, phosphate, magnesium, calcium, sulphur, copper, zinc, Dry Matter, pH

Ultimately, analysing the resources you have at hand allows you to be more precise about nutrient planning, investments and animal health. It gives you the information you need to be a more efficient farmer and in this climate, that’s incredibly powerful.