Improve soil health and break down crop residues

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27 July 2022
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Use soil conditioners, says business director

 

This year’s extreme heatwaves mean growers are likely to be left with stubbles in very dry soils which will be hard to break down.

David Harrod, Timac Agro UK Arable Business Director, says these conditions could impact long-term soil health and quality if not managed effectively before autumn drilling.

“The first step of building healthy soils comes at harvest, with the effective management and incorporation of stubbles and crop residues,” David said.

However, he states that as farmers move away from ploughing and other deep cultivation techniques towards minimum tillage, breaking fibrous matter down after harvest is becoming one of their biggest challenges.

“This year the issue will be compounded as it’s likely stubble will be in very dry soils which will be extremely hard to break down,” he said.

David adds the conventional approach to help break down crop residues has become unviable due to regulations and the cost of nitrogen. “Traditionally, farmers will have been applying 30-35 kg/ha of nitrogen as either urea or ammonium nitrate to stubbles, however, with nitrogen prices at £750/t, or more, and only OSR allowed to take Autumn N, growers cannot afford to do this.”

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Therefore, he recommends applying soil conditioner products which are specifically designed to help break down crop residues. He notes they also have added benefits of unlocking nutrition and improving soil structure for the following crop, while also being far more environmentally friendly.

“A product like Humistart+ from Timac Agro, contains humic- and fulvic-acids and calcium, seaweed extracts and calcium, which start to break down organic matter the right way without any need for additional nitrogen,” he explains.

“These soil conditioners promote microbial activity, the bugs and microbes in the soil, as well as worms, so there’s more aeration in the soil when you use these products. They also help to release the natural mineral nitrogen that’s already present in the soil, making it available for the following crop, while helping to stimulate early root growth once the following crop has been drilled.” 

David is seeing much more interest in soil conditioners from the industry as there becomes increased awareness on the importance of soil health in sustainable arable production.

“Humistart+ is approved for organic use, and has been around for 20 years, but arable farmers are only now starting to learn about its benefits,” he said. “I’m certain the use of soil conditioners will become much more common as the industry widely adopts min-til practices.”

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