English soils suffer low pH levels

Countries More News Today's Headline
English soils suffer low pH levels

The results of a soil survey which tested nutrient levels on farms across southwest England have revealed almost half the samples taken had a pH value below government targets.shutterstock_79141825

The survey was conducted by Natural England’s Soils for Profit Project (S4P) which has been running since October 2009 and came to end on Dec. 31, 2013.

A total of 3,447 soil samples were collected from 699 farms between Sept. 1, 2011 and Aug. 31, 2013.

The idea behind the S4P survey is to give farmers a better insight into the status of soil on their land and demonstrate what needs to be done to improve conditions in order to boost yields.

However, the results show that 47% of the soil samples taken did not meet the levels set out in the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) fertilization manual. This means those farms "are not meeting their full potential and the effectiveness of any fertilizers applied will be limited," Natural England said.

Another key finding of the tests is that less 30% of the samples showed phosphate and potassium levels within the government's target range.

Natural England said this suggests "care needs to be taken in the application of fertilizers and manures to keep nutrient levels in line with cropping requirements and reduce the risk of wider environmental impacts."

One way to correct low soil pH is to apply lime because it improves the uptake of nutrients, thus boosting crop development and overall quality.

S4P project manager, Steve Marston, said that nutrient balance is a basic building block of good agronomy.

"What these findings all demonstrate is the importance of careful nutrient planning in maintaining soil productivity and producing optimum crop and forage yields," he said.

"Nutrients applications should be based on reliable nutrient plan and up-to-date soil analysis results. These results are a timely reminder to keep an eye on fundamental agronomy requirements."

For more than three years the project has advised over 3,000 farmers and organized around 300 group events to provide practical trainings and pass on knowledge to help growers efficiently manage their soils, manures and nutrients.

Paul Cottington, from the southwest branch of the National Farmers Union, described the S4P as a "big winner" because it has helped to address some of the environmental issues faced by farms across the region. He also hoped that more funding would become available for similar projects in the future.

Photo: www.shutterstock.com


Subscribe to our newsletter