Friday, July 1, 2022

Soil fertility will lift exports

New Zealand agriculture can meet the Government’s target of doubling exports by 2025 simply by correcting soil fertility on farms, a top soil scientist and consultant says.

Dr Doug Edmeades told a Beef + Lamb New Zealand seminar at Palmerston, Otago, recently that about 70% of the farms he visited have a potassium or sulphur deficiency. About 45% have a phosphate deficiency and there are significant losses of molybdenum.

“The answer to doubling exports is simply applying known science to get the soil fertility right.”

The Government is pumping hundreds of millions into initiatives such as the Primary Growth Partnership and irrigation projects in a bid to lift production and returns.

Edmeades said that for the past 10 years he had visited farms between Cape Regina to Bluff. The problem was widespread and at the seminar he put up four examples of farms with nutrient and low pH problems.

Edmeades was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday honours this year for services to agriculture.

He said the lack of controls on the fertiliser industry was damaging. There was no legal definition for fertiliser and farmers were bombarded by snake-oil sellers. People could grind up basalt and call it fertiliser.

“Isn’t it crazy that the country’s most important industry is totally deregulated.”

He said farmers should avoid salesmen trying to sell “quack” products with the argument ‘It all starts with soil biology and fertility will follow’.

“Science doesn’t say that.”

He said science said “Get the clover growing, the nutrient and animal cycles going, to put residues back into the soil. The biology grows from there”.

Clover was king because it was free. An ideal pasture with 30-40% clover was fixing 100-200kg N into the soil a year. Clover was also a better stock food than grass.

“It costs 4-5c/kg DM to grow, yet dairy farmers are paying 35c/kg DM for palm kernel.

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