Base Saturation - just part of the equation | Functional Fertiliser

Base Saturation – just part of the equation

The Base Saturation data on a typical New Zealand soil test is valuable but at best it’s only one component and not essential.

Maximum pasture or crop growth can be achieved by considering the actual nutrient extracted (me/100g) data, recent fertiliser inputs and putting a spade in the ground.

Soil test numbers are just that, numbers on a piece of paper, or a screen.  Formulating an effective fertiliser policy requires far more than a mathematical formula that provides a kilogram per hectare input of each nutrient.

Formulae may be useful when calculating the requirements of a high yielding fast growing crop in a well cultivated loam soil, but our pastures have different requirements.

Experience shows that the Base Saturation method nearly always results in higher than necessary inputs of expensive nutrients, often resulting in disappointing performance relative to cost.

Base Saturation figures are calculated from nutrient extracted relative to the holding capacity of the soil, expressed as the Cation Exchange Capacity.

The Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of soil is influenced by the amount of organic matter in the soil, with peat soils often having a reading of 50+ and sand dominated soils with figures of 10 or below.

Early mapping of soil fertility throughout the country carried out by DSIR staff starting in the 1940’s reported their findings in Base Saturation figures.  It’s not new nor are the balances, which have been well publicised for over thirty years.

The purpose of soil nutrient programmes is not to provide perfect soil test results but to provide outstanding pasture and crop performance, and the two do not necessarily correlate.

Exceptional plant growth may be achieved with less than optimum soil nutrient levels.  Conversely those that have undertaken programmes formulated to balance Base Saturation numbers often find that regular nitrogen applications are required for reasonable performance.

When growth is disappointing the missing ingredient is biological activity.  Without robust biology soils readily compact which is why the programmes provided by Functional Fertiliser provide ultimate performance.

They take into consideration current soil fertility levels, historical inputs, and physical structures.  Soft carbon and a wide range of selected fungi and bacteria are combined ensuring rapid breakdown of semi-digested organic matter steadily releasing nutrient including nitrogen for plant uptake.

This means an immediate reduction in the reliance on water soluble nutrient and within twelve months non-reliance on synthetic nitrogen for optimum pasture performance can be achieved.

The science supporting this work is based on the following from Part 1 of the1968 DSIR Soil Bureau, “The continued decomposition of organic matter, it’s incorporation into the soil system and the formation of granular aggregates by microorganisms are equally as important to high fertility as an adequate supply of mineral nutrients….”  

Total nutrient programmes from Functional Fertiliser combine all facets essential to optimum soil health and plant performance.

Should only biological stimulation be required there are two products DoloZest and CalciZest available that are suitable for ground spread at 300 – 400kg/ha.

Where magnesium is required DoloZest based on Golden Bay dolomite reduces the incidence and severity of calcium/magnesium related metabolic disorders in spring and maintains magnesium availability for twelve months.

CalciZest is the product of choice where magnesium levels are already adequate, and the focus is on stimulating sufficient clover to provide all the necessary nitrogen for 18 tonne of dry matter annually.

There is a widespread misconception that limiting urea usage will reduce both pasture and animal production.

Experience throughout the country over thirty years shows that replacing synthetic N by that fixed free-of-charge by clover can increase both production and profitability.

For more information call Peter on 0800 843 809.

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