Agronomy Advice
February 01, 2018

Dig out the spade before planting

By: Jez Wardman

Spring is fast approaching; time to get the spade out of the shed and do some soil sampling pre-spring planting.

Dig out the spade before planting
Dig out the spade before planting

UK soils have changed a lot in the last few decades; whether it’s the 97% sulphur deficiency found in soils sampled or the low organic matters across arable land. Therefore everyone knows the importance of taking a soil sample; but should you be investing in more than just basic soil analysis?

The basic analysis will give you P, K, Mg and pH; which is a good start but what about Ca, S, Mn, Cu, B, Zn, Mo and Fe? All are important nutrients and you may be unaware that your soils are low in one or more of these elements. Not forgetting the importance of organic matter and cation exchange capacity which can also be included in soil analyses.

Consider investing in a broad spectrum analysis rather than just a basic soil analysis

Yara's analytical laboratory has processed over 20 million samples. This huge dataset has shown that after removing all the soils with limiting factors such as P < index 2, pH <6.5 and micronutrient deficiencies only 13.5% of UK arable soils growing wheat have sufficient levels. When you look at soils sent in for oilseed rape fields then only 7% are sufficient.

By organising a broad spectrum soil analysis you’ll know about these issues before it’s too late – when symptoms appear and yield is already taking a hit. Remember Liebig’s law of the minimum which states “A deficiency of any single nutrient is enough to limit yield”. With yields being pushed further, whilst cost savings are sought (such as P and K holidays) you could be limiting the effectiveness of any increased nitrogen applications.

More information on soil anlaysis