You’re Soils Health & The Tools Available

In modern agriculture there have been times through our industrial revolution that soil was forgotten and for many it was there just to hold a plant up. Even today, the debate continues on whether there is too much focus on developing plants on a GM level and not enough on soil health.

The Driver of Soil Health

Again the need for balance in this debate is relevant and it is pleasing to see a soil focus from organisations such as the United Nations. The climate change debate seems to be the driver of this focus, but does the driver really matter as long as it is been driven?

Soil Science probably needs such a topical driver, be it good or bad, to stay at the forefront of media and the general public to ensure its public relevance. As when it’s compared to such topics as GM technologies, Block Chains, precision agriculture re drones and satellites – soil science is not overly exciting to many, except for the diehard’s the industry?

World Congress of Soil Science

Only in August this year over 2,000 scientists gathered in Rio de Janeiro under the theme – “Soil Science – Beyond Food and Fuel”. It was stated – “Healthy soils are essential to achieve ‘Zero Hunger’ – and other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – peace and prosperity, the United Nations Agriculture Agency Chief underscored in Brazil at the World Congress of Soil Science”. (Ref UN News – 13 August 2018 – Climate Change.)

The article goes on to state the vast effect of soil degradation has on a local to global level and identified the 10 major threats to soil functions. It also stated the relevance/link to “climate change” and how it can assist to make soil “not” forgotten:

“Although soils are hidden and frequently forgotten, we rely on them for our daily activities and for the future of the planet,” the FAO Chief said, underscoring the important support role they play in mitigating or adapting to a changing climate.

“Maintaining and increasing soil carbon stock should become a priority,” asserted the UN Agriculture Chief.

Click the link below for the full article.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/08/1016902

But the question is – what does all this mean on an individual farm level. Is it going to change pricing, what is the incentive for growers to undertake soil healing solutions or health improving practices? Or has it been a long held belief that improving your soils health is too hard, too expensive and only worry about NPK? 

Pricing and incentives for growers is a more complicated topic than we have for this article, but improving soil health is a topic we can address.

Smart Soil Science - The Best of Both Worlds

Too often as humans, we are extremists and agriculture is no different. We go down the path of chemical and only chemical farming, while others try and go completely down the organic natural path. Both have their positive and negatives, and depending on your alignment depends which way you persist. But therein lies, to us, the smart solution to soil science/health and to sustainable food and fibre production, and it does not have to be an expensive solution.

Simply and cost effectively combining the “best of both the chemical and organic worlds” seems for many, the smart way forward in farming. Production levels have plateaued with pure chemical farming no matter what amount of NPKS is put on and it is starting, in many areas, to have a detrimental effect on “soil health” itself, as well as the environment, from leaching, runoff and sodium issues. But it also comes down to replacing soil nutrients, on high yielding crops that are required to ensure world food supply. By not replacing or setting in processes to replace nutrients from these required high yielding crops, it then becomes mining and that is not sustainable either.

The Tools Available

We were recently on a vineyard and talking with the grower on his interest in wanting to improve soil health, but not effect yield and quality, ideally improve it. He was in the mode of thinking it almost had to be one or the other, or how else could he afford it. We looked at his soils, discussed issues he had such as some excessive sodium and inconsistent quality of the grapes and then his current nutrition program.

He was applying his typical Calcium and Potassium nitrates, trace elements and his base granular fertiliser but no soil health work except for gypsum. So simply we are going to add:

  • HP Fulvic Acid® or C-Lift™ to his nitrates at 2% of nutrient solution as it will chelate the nutrients and start the process to improve nutrient cycling and microbial activity bit by bit.
  • He will apply Penmax® (Soil Penetrant) to increase water infiltration and strip sodium from the root zone, which in combination with his already planned Calcium Nitrate applications (now with Fulvic) will start to buffer and correct his sodium issue by replacing the stripped sodium off the soil colloid with calcium. Penmax® also has a strong effect on increasing soil microbial activity.
  • He is utilising our new irrigation line cleaner and soil aeration product Phyto-Cat® which will improve water distribution consistency as well as the soil health benefits of increased soil oxygen.
  • Then at the end of the season add Enhance THA® or Enhance Max™ to continue to improve soil health and sodium management, water and nutrient holding ability.

All these products are applied through the irrigation and are at a minimal cost as fertiliser rates can be reduced slightly due to improvement in efficiencies, replace products already used, budgeted for (irrigation cleaning) and it will start to decrease his sodium issue and start to improve overall soil health, plant yield and quality.

If you would like more information on this or a similar approach for your farm, simply call us on 1800 20 009 or email info@ecocatalysts.com.au