Aug. 9, 2012
A FREE soil testing scheme is being rolled out across North Wales this autumn.
Environment Agency Wales (EAW) hopes the test, which evaluates pH and nutrient levels, will reduce fertiliser use and cut costs on farms.
Nichola Taylor, of EAW, said: “This free, simple test allows us to work out the precise pH and nutrient make-up of individual fields so that farmers can take informed decisions.”
The scheme, now in its third successive year, is backed by both of Wales’ farming unions.
Dafydd Jarrett, of NFU Cymru, said: “Optimal grass and crop growth will only occur when soil nutrients are at the right level.
“Over-application of nutrients can not only harm the environment but are financially wasteful.
“With fertiliser prices so high, these free soil tests for pH, phosphate, potash and magnesium can only be beneficial to all.”
A survey of farms in last year’s scheme found that more than three-quarters (77%) could save money by changing the type of fertiliser they use.
Some seven out of ten farmers (71%) could correct soil acidity by applying lime, while almost two-thirds (64%) could use less phosphate without compromising production.
And more than two-fifths (44%) had the potential to replace their artificial fertiliser with slurry, so reducing costs.
Rhys Roberts, of the FUW, urged members to take part.
He said: “Soil testing is important for farmers, particularly in these challenging times, when it is important to maximise crop yields whilst minimising the use of expensive fertilisers.”
The soil testing scheme is aimed at landowners with farms located next to rivers where the quality of water is reduced.
One reason could be the washing from farmland of fertiliser nutrients into watercourses, said Nichola Taylor.
She added: “Reducing the amount of nutrients in rivers or the sea will also improve the quality of the water, helping tourism and benefit the North Wales economy.”