When soil was sampled on a dairy farm in County Tyrone it showed results that were not only surprising to the farmer, but also that in the past, money had been spent unnecessarily on soil fertility products.
The importance of soil fertility is a subject which now doesn’t go unnoticed on the Keelagher family farm just outside Fivemiletown in County Tyrone. Milking a herd of 80 dairy cows as well as having a finishing beef enterprise, Liam Keelagher, who farms alongside his father Peter, fully understands that with a limited grassland platform around the home farm, every acre must work to its maximum potential. Liam openly admits that it’s an ongoing process but three years ago with the help of his Thompsons’ technical sales rep, Geoffrey Read, he took advantage of the soil fertility programme offered to him.
Soil samples taken back in spring 2015 showed that, in common with the vast majority of grassland in Northern Ireland, soil fertility status was significantly below target levels. Soil pH levels were broadly acceptable however some of the land had a pH of 5.5. This was having a significant impact on the nutrient uptake and action was quickly taken to address the problem fields. Liam says that of equal and perhaps greater importance were the P and K indexes across the whole farm. “We had a widespread problem with high P levels and low to extremely low K levels, with silage fields being a particular problem. Our land had not been sampled in some time and when the results came back it showed we had been spending money unnecessarily on P while not giving enough attention to K and these indexes were on a gradual decline,” says Liam.
“We worked with Geoffrey to put in place a fertiliser programme for the entire farm, both for silage and grazing ground, to not only supply required levels of N,P and K for immediate crop needs but also to build up soil K levels over a period of time and improve the fertility of our land.” Over the past few years the Keelagher’s have been using a combination of both the Thompsons Zero P and Sweetgrass fertiliser where it was required on both the silage and grazing ground. By using the soil fertility programme Liam says that he is correcting the imbalances in the soil and utilising a range of highly effective fertiliser products. “The fertiliser programme includes products with high levels of Sulphur and Sodium as standard; two nutrients which are proving to be just as important as N, P and K. I am currently sampling all of the land again before we apply slurry next week which will allow us to build up a picture of how indexes have changed and whether or not the consistent rain seen over the autumn and winter months has had a detrimental effect. These results will form the basis for our fertiliser plan for this year,” concludes Liam.
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