Measurement is at the heart of good management
With the valuable first cut underway in parts of the country, thoughts will now turn to preparations for the second and possibly third or even fourth cut, as building up good quality forage stocks will be essential. to cushion the unknown winter that awaits us.
Managing rising input costs remains an ongoing challenge and while farmers will no doubt seek to maximize all available resources, including slurries and manures, it is important to understand the nutritional limitations of manures, because their overreliance on the detriment of adequate supply of crop nutrient needs could be a false economy.
Over-spreading manure is also not the answer and could lead to undesirable environmental outcomes.
Good management and careful planning are therefore necessary to find the right balance.
Measurement is at the heart of good management and as such soil analysis and testing should form the basis of all nutrient management decisions.
DAERA has recently launched a new Soil Nutrient Health program which will provide farmers with soil test results and farm maps detailing each field’s nutrient levels with the intention that all fields in Northern Ireland North are sampled.
In addition to providing information on nutrient levels in each field, the farm maps will also be able to identify fields prone to nutrient loss through runoff to waterways, allowing for better harvesting. decision on where and how to apply nutrients.
Nutrient loss is both an economic and an environmental issue that should not be overlooked at the farm level.
Earlier this year, the NI Assembly passed its first-ever climate change bill and, while there was some relief that common sense had finally prevailed so that the targets set reflected the science and circumstances of NI, the challenge of achieving these goals remains.
While efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the farm level will continue, it is also important that farmers are recognized for the unique role their farms can play in carbon sequestration, thereby offsetting some of these emissions.
To date, there is a lack of data to properly account for this, but it is hoped that the new system will help create a benchmark by estimating the amount of carbon stored in farmland soils, hedgerows and trees.
DAERA’s Soil Nutrient Health Program is to be rolled out in stages over the next four years by geographical area, starting with Zone 1 which covers most of County Down and some surrounding areas. Farmers located in Zone 1 will be contacted directly by the AFBI which administers the program.