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TEST SOIL TO REACH NEW STANDARD

Farmers are being urged to test soil and establish a baseline that will help improve soil health ahead of a new 2022 standard. The Arable Soil Standard was issued in June 2021 as part of the government’s Environmental Land Management (ELM) and Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) plans. To best prepare for the new standard, farmers should test soil more regularly to identify organic matter content before adding inputs or adjusting their rotation, suggests Eurofins Agro managing director, Daniel Robinson.

“The new standards will be more easily achieved if farmers accurately analyse their soil before making changes to the rotation or farming methods. Understanding the soil status at the start of the process, the baselines, helps to provide the data needed to take the correct actions. Our tests provide chemical, physical, and biological insight, offering farmers a better way to monitor, manage and improve the health and fertility of their soil ahead of these new land management targets,” he says.

Eurofins offers three new products: Fertilisation Manager®, Soil Crop Monitor® and Soil Life Monitor®. Fertilisation Manager measures soil fertility. “This includes the chemical values of macro and micronutrients,” says Mr Robinson. “Detailed organic matter and carbon fractions, as well as the overall structure of the soil is also analysed in conjunction with biological components such as fungi and bacteria,” he adds.

The microbial biomass from the sample will help farmers to understand the sensitivity of the soil to conventional farming methods such as ploughing. The number and nature of the bacteria present in a soil sample will also facilitate the accurate calculation of what nutrients need to be added to the soil to optimise plant health and growth. “This will help make difficult decisions in autumn, such as choosing cultivation methods, or deciding whether to plant cover crops,” suggests Mr Robinson.

Soil Crop Monitor offers the most accurate means of testing soil during a growing season. “Unlike some tests, Soil Crop Monitor analyses both the soil and the plant. This measures the plant available nutrients and the nutrients absorbed by the crop,” he says.

Soil Life Monitor determines the total microbial biomass, fungi, bacteria, and protozoa. It also identifies some physical characteristics such as pH and the quality of organic matter. “PLFA (phospholipid fatty acids) found in soil can be measured to provide a fingerprint of the soil content. PLFAs are degraded quickly in the soil, so the analysis gives an indication of the amount of living biomass,” says Mr Robinson.