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Author Topic: Use of artificial fertilisers  (Read 904 times)

Southern Northerner

  • Joined Jun 2017
Use of artificial fertilisers
« on: June 14, 2018, 07:39:38 pm »
Some advice needed please.  I've recently had some soil tests done which show my pH values are fine and my NPK levels are low to very low.  No fertilisers have been put on the fields for at least ten years (other than natural animals ones!) and at present we have five horses and some fifteen sheep (sheep numbers will increase) on 18 acres of well drained land.  I read a short thread on here from a few years ago where there were a few views expressed about the sense or otherwise of using artificial fertilisers.  I'd appreciate any current views before I take any action.  Thanks in advance.
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Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Use of artificial fertilisers
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2018, 01:57:59 am »
We have not had to apply manures to our land luckily, but as you have a deficit then animal manure without wormer, neonicotionoid etc residues is the best way to go in my opinion, if you can get hold of some.  Chemical fertilisers add no bulk /humus to the ground, and this is what you need for a healthy soil, with plenty of earthworms, bacteria, minibeats and micorrhiza.  Chemical fertilisers feed only the plants, and in the case of pasture encourage sudden lush growth which can cause the runs and grass staggers in livestock.


You have to be confident in your decision as everyone round about points out your slow early spring growth and advises you to add artificial fertiliser, but your grass will be stronger, more varied in the herbs in it and better for your livestock and for hay.  It takes a few years to build up a good soil.


When we very first moved to our smallholding, before we knew anything, we bought a couple of trailer loads of cattle manure from a dairy farmer.  It never occurred to us that he would be using persistent wormers.  We left the manure to rot down but it never did - there was never a single compost worm in the heap, so it just sat there for about 4 years, and we never felt inclined to spread it.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 02:01:33 am by Fleecewife »
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SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Use of artificial fertilisers
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2018, 09:20:11 am »
A simplistic view is that you need to add nourishment if you take nourishment off.

If all the muck from all the grazing animals goes back on the ground, things should be fine.

If a hay or silage crop is taken off and sold, there is a deficit which needs to be made up.

If a hay or silage crop is taken off and fed to your own animals, and the muck put back on the fields, things should be fine.

Sounds like perhaps the land has been cropped and not replenished, so you have a deficit to correct.

Chances are it is simply that - hay or silage made and sold, no muck or fertiliser brought back on.

So, to replace what has been lost, you need either FYM (farmyard manure) or artificial fertiliser.  Or maybe things like seaweed, or even human slurry, but I’ve no experience with those to share.

FYM is the best for all the reasons FW outlines.  But unless you know where it’s from and how the animals and land have been managed, there are risks. Disease, weed seeds, persistent weed killers, persistent wormers.

Manure from an organic farm should be fine - but since organics can’t use artificial fertilisers, it’s highly unusual for them to sell any of their FYM.

Personally, with permanent pastures which have been managed as grass for more than a couple of years, so have well-established root systems and a healthy soil structure,  I would be perfectly happy to spread a light dose of artificial to redress the balance.  Maybe not all at once - see what tonnes per acre is recommended for the shortfall you have, and if seems like a lot, spread half of it now and half next year. Or even 1/3 each year for three years.

If you spread a lot at once you might find the grass doesn’t make nice hay, so I’d err on the side of less at one time.

Ex-BH used to use a little artificial occasionally on his hay meadows, as well as using all his own FYM.  He farmed 440 acres in all, and cropped perhaps 45 acres.  About 2/3 of his cattle would be in over winter, making FYM, most of which went back on the hay meadows.  However, he did make a surplus of hay to sell, so his system did need a little additional nutrient on the hay meadows (which were grazed after cropping and sometimes grazed lightly in spring too) from time to time.  I seem to recall he used maybe 4T of artificial over perhaps 5 years. The meadows were all always full of a good variety of grasses and lots of wildflowers.
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landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Use of artificial fertilisers
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2018, 09:38:50 am »
Depends what you want. FYM needs specialist equipment to spread and cannot be grazed for ages  afterwards. Would you want to eat grass that was plastered with manure  :yuck: ?
Artificial fertiliser is easy to apply, you get an immediate response , and it can be grazed immediately if in pellet form, or when the rain's washed it off the leaves if a powder. Some people take their stock, (especially horses)  off for a short time, but in 30 years I never have. The fertiliser is not poisonous.

With artificial fertiliser also you can get the ideal mix to correct any deficiencies you may have in your soil. You've had your soil tested so you might as well apply what the soil actually needs!  FYM is high in potash which is not normally too low in pasture, as it is returned in the urine of grazing animals. Phosphate is permanently removed from pasture in the bones of the grazing animals and the phosphate content of FYM is low. So applying FYM to pasture will not totally remedy your deficiencies.  That's why FYM is normally applied to meadow land where the high potash content replaces the potash removed by the hay crop.
For grazing land you need a high phosphate fertiliser as that is what is removed by grazing animals. In addition, phosphate greatly encourages the growth of clover which in turn fixes nitrogen in the soil and so improves the fertility.
I'm assuming that your land has been in long term pasture, in which case it will have plenty of organic matter in it and always will have as long as it remains grassland. Loss of organic matter occurs in arable farming where many tonnes of crop produce are removed / year and only artificial fertiliser returned.  So - if you are wanting a quick response to remedy your deficiencies this year, I would apply one or 2 bags per acre  (ie 50kg bags) of artificial.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 10:55:12 am by landroverroy »
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Foobar

  • Joined Mar 2012
  • South Wales
Re: Use of artificial fertilisers
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2018, 10:35:32 am »
Posting the same thing in two places .... that confused me for a minute!!

Foobar

  • Joined Mar 2012
  • South Wales
Re: Use of artificial fertilisers
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2018, 10:39:45 am »
Artificial fertilisers are not a sustainable way of farming.  So it just depends on what sort of person you are and whether you want a quick fix or whether you want to "do the right thing" for the environment.

Can you get some muck from a local farmer and get them to spread it for you?  But as Fleecewife says you need to make sure it doesn't have wormers, antibiotics or other chems in it.

How do you manage your land, it is divided into paddocks?

landroverroy

  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Use of artificial fertilisers
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2018, 11:14:26 am »
Artificial fertilisers are not a sustainable way of farming.  So it just depends on what sort of person you are and whether you want a quick fix or whether you want to "do the right thing" for the environment.

Can you get some muck from a local farmer and get them to spread it for you?  But as Fleecewife says you need to make sure it doesn't have wormers, antibiotics or other chems in it.

How do you manage your land, it is divided into paddocks?


Foobar you are absolutely entitled to your opinion, as are we all. But sometimes opinions are not the be all and end all when not supported by facts.


I took it that Southernortherner was asking about fertiliser for pasture and FYM is infinitely more suited to meadow , where it is sustainable.


(Pasture is grazing land. Meadow is where it is cut for hay or sileage  - for the uninitiated!)


I have explained why FYM is not the ideal exclusive fertiliser for pasture. It is better  than nothing but not as good as applying what the  land actually needs. As mentioned, it is ideal for meadow where you are removing a load of potash with your hay or silage crop. It is not ideal for pasture as it is too low in phosphate which is what growing animals need. Nor does it encourage clover, which with a good covering is entirely sustainable by capturing nitrogen from the atmosphere. In addition, to needlessly and constantly apply a potash rich fertiliser (ie FYM) to your pasture will make it liable to cause staggers in your livestock.
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: Use of artificial fertilisers
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2018, 11:20:17 am »
Mob grazing is the answer. Graze small area for a day and rotate your stock to a next parcel allowing the previous one to rest for at least 4-5 weeks. That way you fix by far the most carbon in the soil because grass roots have plenty of time to recover. This is how you will increase water holding capacity. The next rotation will grow much taller and healthier. No need for oil based fertilisers. Your land will get exactly how much it needs.
Another benefit of this is decreased parasite risk.
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Argyll
Re: Use of artificial fertilisers
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2018, 12:17:22 pm »
Yes FYM is best but P& k can be added from natural sources , most are rock based . The soil association has a list of approved fertiliser's for all types

Foobar

  • Joined Mar 2012
  • South Wales
Re: Use of artificial fertilisers
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2018, 01:48:06 pm »
Foobar you are absolutely entitled to your opinion, as are we all. But sometimes opinions are not the be all and end all when not supported by facts.



@landroverroy  - I was not replying to your post (I hadn't even read it), I was merely copying my post on the duplicate thread in Land Management that I made much earlier today (before your post).


And what I was trying to get at is that perhaps it's a much bigger question than just how do I increase my NPK values. Hence the question about paddocks.


If it were me I'd not use any fertiliser and divide it into lots of small paddocks and do mob grazing. And I wouldn't graze each paddock hard, I'd always leave a residual, especially if you are on free draining land you don't want to expose soil and let it dry out.  And I'd be looking to graze all year around, so limiting the need for brought in hay etc.  And make sure you have a good variety of grasses/legumes so that you have good mineral provision and soil structure.  I wouldn't have done a soil test either, I would just do a forage (grass) analysis - the soil can be one thing but if the plants aren't able to access whats in the soil for whatever reason then you won't know that without analysing the grass.

Southern Northerner

  • Joined Jun 2017
Re: Use of artificial fertilisers
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2018, 02:56:11 pm »
These are really helpful comments and perhaps I should just add a few more points for clarity:

- ours is very much pasture land - it hasn't been and it won't be used to cut hay/crops

- it's segmented into paddocks which are rotated as much as possible

- the gradient of the land is quite steep in places so there will be a bit of a challenge in applying what I apply

- the only fertiliser on the land for the last ten years has been animal droppings (as opposed to manure spread) which have been harrowed in so pretty minimal really.

I'm not an expert obviously but I think the low NPK ratings are due to the fact that the land has been fairly well grazed over the years without anything being put back and this is only our second year here so rotation etc has yet to bite properly.  My intention was not to blast the land every year but more to consider an artificial fertiliser maybe once every few years.

I hope this additional information is useful and thanks again for all your comments to date.

honeyend

  • Joined Oct 2011
Re: Use of artificial fertilisers
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2018, 08:18:08 pm »
There are a couple of organic based( probably chicken manure) that I use. They are low in N but bulk up the size of the plant. I like them because you can just about put them on any time you are likely to have rain, if you manage to make a mistake you are not going to get a massive grass flush if you have ponies.
  They are expensive for what they are, I think.
https://www.burnhills.com/small-holder-c8/grass-seed-fertiliser-c23/suregrow-fertiliser-20kg-horse-pony-paddock-grass-fertiliser-p3132/s10813?gclid=Cj0KCQjw6pLZBRCxARIsALaaY9agxQHtdMCtkRLXehBKDZrPWqDhqwbTuV5kvescIMtM6QiNkB8oNssaAukdEALw_wcB

 

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