Know your soil pH and nutrient needs

14 January 2019

Farm pond

Understanding your existing soil nutrient levels helps you to apply only the additional nutrients you need, saving you time and expense.

It also minimises the risk of excess nitrate and phosphate not used by crops being lost to watercourses, which can reduce water quality for wildlife, drinking water and groundwater.

Soil testing will help you decide how many additional nutrients are required, allowing a more targeted approach to nutrient use.

Testing for pH and nutrients should be done across the farm every three to five years, or more often if there is a known problem, such as a low nutrient index.

The pH determines the acidity or alkalinity of a soil and is important to assess in order to check that it is not limiting to nutrient availability and crop growth.

Soil ph diagram_61016

Using the chart above you can build up a picture of your best fields and identify problem areas by ‘scoring’ your soil health.

pH is measured on a scale of 1 to 14 (but less than 4 and more than 9 is uncommon), with 7 being neutral, below 7 being acidic and above 7 being alkaline.

It is important to manage inputs with great care in areas important for wildlife, and if unsure you should consult an environmental adviser.

If appropriate, correcting the pH status of your soil by applying lime to reduce acidity is a simple and effective way to increase crop productivity.

Download the CFE Nutrient Management Guide for more information

Detailed guidance on a wide range of nutrient management techniques can also be found with CFE partner Tried & Tested

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