Top tips from farmers
The FAS Soil and Nutrient Network farms, started originally as a collaboration between Farming for a Better Climate and Farming and Water Scotland, are taking a ‘before and after’ look at how to protect and improve farm soils and make best use of both organic and inorganic fertilisers, saving money, benefitting yields and improving farm efficiency and resilience.
Farmers participating in the Soil and Nutrient Network identified five steps to improve farm soils and nutrient use that all farmers could benefit from:
- Know your soils. Poor soil structure can go unseen and lead to a host of problems. Dig a soil pit and assess your soil structure.
- Establish and correct soil pH. Below target pH makes it harder for crops to access nutrients in the soil. Soil testing and using precision farming techniques could help to even out pH across farm fields.
- Establish soil nutrient status. Soil testing is key; without knowing current nutrient status you can’t accurately plan future applications. You may already be at high status for P and K, therefore may not need to apply these nutrients to all fields next year.
- Establish nutrients in slurry and manures. Slurry sample at time of spreading and factor this in to your nutrient budget. Making use of the nutrients in slurry and FYM could reduce your fertiliser bill.
- Carry out a nutrient budget. PLANET Scotland is free to use; email firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire about a free PLANET Scotland training course to work out a nutrient budget for your farm.
Even technically efficient farms can find small changes to current soil and nutrient management practices that could make a big difference.
Host farms in this round of the Soil and Nutrient Network so far:
- Robbie Brockie, Wormiston Farm, Peeblesshire. An upland beef and sheep farm over 283 ha.
- The Baillie family at Crumhaugh farm, South Lanarkshire. A 101 ha dairy unit.
- Robbie and Andrew Mackintosh at Knockglass Farm near Thurso, Caithness. A new holding for the brothers beef and sheep enterprise.
- The Forster Family, Girrick Farm, Roxburghshire. A 242 ha mixed arable, beef and sheep unit.
- Euan Crichton, Bogindollo Farm, Angus. Bogindollo Farm is a mixed arable and suckler unit
- Maitland Brothers, East Balhalgardy, Aberdeenshire. East Balhalgardy is a predominantly arable farm extending to 216 hectares on the outskirts of Inverurie.
- Montgomery Family, Waternish Farm, Skye. Waternish Farm has a small herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle and takes managing farm wildlife and biodiversity very seriously.
Previous Soil and Nutrient Network farms:
- Elaine Booth and Peter Robertson, Ednie Farm, Aberdeenshire. A low ground mixed unit growing OSR, wheat, barley and grass plus suckler herd.
- Hugh and Alasdair Elder, Stevenson Mains and East Bearford in East Lothian. Neighbouring arable units growing spring barley, winter OSR and grass for 25 head of store cattle.
- Carolyne and Somerset Charrington, Treshnish Farm, Isle of Mull. Hill livestock unit covering 750 ha.
- The Davidson family at Sinsharnie near Huntly. Mixed farming enterprise over 240 ha.
Improved soil and nutrient use could make your business more profitable, lower the farm carbon footprint and reduce diffuse pollution risks.
For more information:
- Visit Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service (FAS) to learn more about the Soil and Nutrient Network farms attend a Soil and Nutrient Network event near you.
- Download the CREW Valuing Your Soils brochure.
- Visit Farming for a Better Climate for other practical ideas to improve farm efficiency and benefit the business.