What Science?

There is a lot of talk about science, how we apply it on our farms and probably to the confusion of who it was supposed to help, the Farmer, which science will best suit his or her needs.

I have discussed in previous articles the findings that our team are discovering repeatedly when applying international science and principles to soil. This is proving a superior path ahead for farmers involved in all aspects of farming.

We have travelled to Australia, United Kingdom, and the United States to learn more, expand our thinking and advance our techniques to empower farmers to step into the light towards better ways of farming.

Don't be fooled into thinking that we are better than the rest of the world, that our cow dung is better or even different from what cows produce in Wales, England or the States. I have even noticed that cows moo the same! It is also a misconception to think that soils are different in any other parts of the world. The differences we find in our own country's soil from Cape Reinga through to Invercargill would come close to the variances across the world. The advanced courses we have attended have us working with international tutors teaching fertiliser recommendations on different soils from different countries and a diverse range of crops including avocados, grapes, oranges,walnuts, kiwifruit, trees and all aspects of livestock farmed soils.

The principles to balance any soil by adding nutrients which are lacking is simply universal. Every soil which will grow anything efficiently demands the same approach to give the sufficient nutrients to do the job. Over the last five years, many of our team have been to 5 to 7 advanced scientific courses to learn these advanced international techniques which are helping our farmers in NZ become more in control of their destiny.

The more science we apply to our clients' farms, the more we understand how farmers, without realising, have built the two large competing co-operatives. They supply 90% of the fertiliser to NZ farmers. Ballance can trace its origins back to 1954 setting up bases in Southland and Bay of Plenty whereas Christchurch based Ravensdown began later in 1978 to provide some healthy competition.

These two giant fertiliser companies are now of similar size turning over approximately 1 Billion dollars annually.

Both of these companies over time have adapted a set of policies or parameters which have been accepted and followed by farmers generally known as the NPK fertiliser approach. And it works!

Our NZ farmers have grown all aspects of farming based on this approach over many years.

However some of their policies, I believe, have been very cunningly set up to sell fertiliser rather than follow scientific principles. The main product produced by both companies is Superphosphate and there would be no surprise to find that this is sold wherever there is an opportunity even if it isn't needed. Phosphate is the least leachable nutrient in the soil provided it is not in excess to plant requirements.

During these last few tough years, when we find phosphate is at good levels, then farmers are wasting their money applying more, when other nutrients are lacking.

I have attached the nutrient availabilty chart which is accepted science, showing the pH line which gives the best availability of nutrients to plant roots in the soil. Simply if you move a vertical line from left to right, the availabilty of each element changes.

Note how the availability of phosphate is twice as available at 6.4 compared to 5.9 pH. We are finding that lifting the pH in the soil will naturally increase the availabilty of phosphate without needing to apply more. We are also finding that in some instances, particularly when calcium or magnesium are low with a correspondingly low pH, the cost to balance your farm and increase grass growth can be less than what you would expect. Even nitrogen is more effective over 6 pH.

I would encourage farmers, especially in these tough financial times to apply some forward thinking principles. It starts with some Independent International soil testing and will guide you into a more scientific, healthier and more productive future.

David Law,
Forward Farming Consultancy


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