WITH input costs at an all-time high, maximising grassland efficiency from the soil up is paramount for livestock farmers to keep a step ahead.

In a recent briefing hosted by Carr’s Billington, the role of integrated digital agronomy and precision farming methods was portrayed as highly valuable a long-term investment with significant returns for farmers.

Speaking at the event, Hannah Shirt, business development manager at Lancrop Laboratories, which provides Carr’s Billington with analysis services, said the importance of soil analysis in improving nutrient use efficiency and reducing fertiliser losses.

“A low soil pH will significantly reduce the nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) availability to grass, potentially leading to the over-application of fertiliser and poor yields. But, if soil pH is raised from 5.5 to 6 – 6.5, using lime for example, around 30 to 40 per cent more nitrogen is typically made available for plants,” she said.

“With reduced losses and increased nutrient use efficiency, this could deliver the equivalent fertiliser cost savings of up to a third, which in today’s market is significant. If farmers aren’t routinely conducting soil analysis, this insight can be very hard to realise, and this year particularly, farmers could be missing a trick.”

As part of the briefing, Robert Bowes, account manager for RHIZA, went on to discuss precision mapping technology. This included how it can use soil analysis results, soil health indicators, weather trends and business data to further improve grassland efficiency and yields.

“The crux of our Contour platform is that it can observe field performance. By pooling data on soil analysis, weather, satellite imagery and many other areas, it’s possible to build a profile of performance indicators on a field-by-field basis,” he said.

“It’s this insight which helps inform practices, such as variable rate spreading and section control at application, to drive efficiencies.”

Jim McRobert, technical manager at Carr’s Billington, summarised the event by highlighting how everything farmers do starts from the soil up. “There are many techniques and technologies available to producers to improve soil health and forage efficiency, to help stay a step ahead.

“This is an exciting place to be, but if we’re to feed the planet it’s on us all to start looking after the soils in a better way,” he said.

“Soil analysis, technology and precision machinery are just some of the tools in our armoury. It’s not an easy time for farmers, however, if you can focus on one thing, I’d strongly recommend it be to look at how you could improve soil health. From this, the benefits will come.”

For a chance to learn how to optimise soil, grass and silage management using digital agronomy and precision farming, Carr’s Billington is hosting an on-farm event: Making More from Grass, From The Soil Up at Studdah Farm, Leyburn on Tuesday, June 14, by kind permission of the Pratt family.

Visit www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/soil-grass-silage-farming-event-tickets-339077137847 to book.