Getting to the root of waste
Phil Stocker - 17 March 2011
There is usually only one person who pays for waste, and that’s the one making it. This is slowly becoming the case in all business and personal situations and on farms it’s pretty clear that if you waste resources or you have crops that fail then it is you that picks up the tab. As the market gets tighter this will increasingly be the case – no one, not a supermarket buyer or the public who buy direct, will want to pay extra because you are not doing your best to optimise performance.
As organic producers we sign up to farming to a set of principles that result in very few short term fixes being available if things go wrong, and because of this it is even more important that our planning and attention to detail goes as far as it can to avoid costly problems occurring in the first place. This is where things like rotations, fertility building and subsequent cropping, nutrient budgeting, forage quality, keeping livestock healthy, and much more, all come in.
Now is the time of year when spring crops are being planted and the grass is beginning to grow. Soils are drying out, and this is the time to make sure we optimise the ability of crops to take up nutrients to grow healthily and efficiently, to grow away quickly, be vigorous to the point that they can resist pest and disease challenges, and reach their optimum. The most fundamental thing we can do is allow and encourage plant roots to do their business. A suppressed root system that only reaches half of its potential will simply not be able to feed itself to its potential. Roots, and their fungal extensions, will spread for many many metres if unhindered, and the result can be a massive total surface area that will have the best opportunity to source the essential nutrients that are required for optimum growth.
So now is the time to check for good soil structure, and to avoid damaging soils during spring cultivations. Get that spade out and take a look at what’s beneath the surface – first and foremost check for compacted layers and then think about what can be done, by mechanical means or choice of groundbreaking crops, to improve that all important soil structure. There is plenty of information available on soils and the easiest way to start may be by taking a look at the recent presentations and clips available on our web site here.