1 A comprehensive soil test should be completed annually to determine what nutrients should be applied to the soil to maintain fertility balance. We recommend Perry Agricultural Laboratories (PAL) for the tests and Kinsey Agricultural Services (KAS) for the recommendations.
2 The soil is the plants stomach; please respect it. We are a reflection of the soils health.
3 Some chemical fertiliser kills microbes, causing imbalances. Superphosphate and urea are deadly to some beneficial soil fungi. Nitrogen is the only major plant nutrient that you can grow yourself. Watch salt and ammonia levels, and insist on applying only fertilisers which do the least damage to soil life and plant roots - you can reduce nitrogen inputs over time by promoting soil biology.
4 95% of plant yield comes from the atmosphere; only 5% comes from the soil. We must get the soil nutrients corrected to maximise the 95% from the atmosphere.
5 Fertiliser programmes must be based around the calcium content of your soil. If base saturation calcium is below 60%, you will virtually have to purchase fertiliser ad infinitum.
6 The correct base saturation figures from KAS for soils are:
- Calcium 60-68%,
- Magnesium 10-12%
- Potassium 3.5-5% for pastures, 7-7.5% for woody plants.
- Sodium 0.5-3%.
- Many NZ soils are well below these figures.
- Once these conditions have been met fertiliser requirements will drop substantially.
- Soil pH will auto-correct to about 6.4 when the above conditions are fulfilled.
7 It is extremely important to get calcium levels up. Calcium is responsible for carrying other minerals into the plant, however too much calcium can tie up other nutrients and cause deficiencies. Soil testing with a reputable lab is the only way to effectively measure base saturation and calcium levels.
8 Calcium and boron are synergists so lime is more effective with boron added. Boron, along with selenium and cobalt, is commonly deficient in New Zealand soils.
9 Lime to correct calcium, not to “correct” pH. Calcium:
- Improves root development
- Enhances microbial activity
- Increases the transport of minerals: Calcium is the vehicle that moves minerals into plants
- Improves soil structure
- Acts as a secondary messenger
- Improves plant health and disease resistance
- Is required for cell walls (pectin)
- Enhances the rate of protein synthesis
- Serves as a weed indicator
10 Dolomite is highly rated for its calcium and magnesium content. Magnesium is found at the centre of the chlorophyll molecule, the plants light-harvesting, energy-producing centre. Magnesium also plays an important role in the production of oils and proteins, and in energy metabolism. (If Ca levels are too high, we will not recommend dolomite, nor do we recommend serpentine as it is too slow to break down and to build in the soil.)
11 Fertiliser and lime are more effective with carbon added. Carbon is food for the microbes. Carbon sources are well-made compost, humates and similar substances.
12 Feed the soil life using carbon from compost, green manures, livestock manures and crop residues; apply calcium from a reputable plant available source.
13 Soil fungi are responsible for retaining 100% of available calcium in the soil. It is a fallacy that one tonne of lime or another product is required to move soil pH by one point. The soil microbes have the ability to move the pH of your soil without the physical input of calcium.
14 If Lucerne, oats and similar crops have hollow stems, calcium is lacking and yield will not meet potential. Adequate calcium also translates into better stock growth rates and weight gain.
15 Not all N, P, K, Mg, S etc is equal. Natural forms are far superior to chemical forms, and some chemicals are worse than others. The bioavailable forms of nutrients are the healthiest options.
16 A fertiliser programme must feed the microbes first, which will then feed the plants. Microbes include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nemotodes, algae, ciliates, arthropods and earthworms.
17 Bacteria have a Carbon:Nitrogen ratio of 5:1 which means for every six bacteria eaten, five parts of N are released. Nematodes are 100:1, so for every 20 bacteria they eat, 19 parts of N are released into the soil. This is why it's so important that the soil life be in balance. (This process can account for 400kg N/ha/yr.)
18 The number of earthworms in the soil is an excellent visual sign of a healthy soil, and they can produce 30-300 tonnes/ha of casts per year. Worm casts from 20 worms per spade square contain 5 x N (1.2t/ha), 7 x P, 3 x Mg, 11 x K and 1.5 x Ca, far more than ordinary soil. Sulphur, iron, zinc, and trace elements also increase. Pasture fibre increases by over 100%.
19 60% of the sugars manufactured in leaves are transferred to the roots at night. Because sugar content in leaves is highest then, endeavour to cut hay or silage in late afternoon or evening.
20 50% of that root sugar is exuded into the soil to feed the microbes. Microbes in turn make minerals available to the plant. The nutrient responsible for that transfer from the leaves is Boron.
21 Brix levels are a measurement of soluble solids (superior nutrition.) Urea-fed pastures have low Brix readings. The minimum reading for pastures able to resist pests and diseases is 12, while an excellent pasture will measure 24. A bee will not work flowers/nectar with a Brix level below 7; otherwise it will expend more energy in collection than it will get back. Using a refractometer regularly will aid in monitoring Brix levels.
22 There are 74,000 tonnes of free nitrogen above every hectare. This can be sequestered in the soil by having calcium at 65-70% and magnesium at 10-12% of base saturation, available phosphorus, iron, cobalt and molybdenum. If one of these five requirements is missing, you may have to import nitrogen.
23 Dr Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel Prizes, stated: "In my opinion, one can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to mineral deficiency." If you accept this statement, then:
- Stock health problems are caused by poor fertiliser practices.
- Insect problems are a symptom of poor fertiliser programmes.
- Fungal and bacterial diseases are symptoms of poor fertiliser programmes.
- Fruit and vegetables that do not store for very long have been grown with incorrect fertilisers.
- If you are dipping, dagging and drenching, your fertiliser programme is not working.
- If you have to constantly re-grass areas of your farm, your fertiliser is failing you.
- If the effluent pond is crusting over, change your fertiliser company.
- The effluent pond is a reflection of the health of the rest of the farm.
- If it is not healthy, nor are the soils and nor are the stock. It is so easy to fix.
24 Most people confuse symptoms with causes. This is deeply ingrained in our lives.The disease itself is not the cause; it is a symptom of an already failing and deficient system. Once you accept that, you will have control over whether you and your property will be as susceptible to disease and other stresses (e.g. drought) or not.
25 Replacing the nutrients removed on an annual basis will not keep your soils in top efficient working order if you do not do that from a full tank. Replacing what has been removed will keep yopur fertility deficient if it was sub-optimal in the first place.
26 Organic matter (OM) is the single most important factor determining profit, yet just one kilogram of excess nitrogen will account for a loss of 100kg of soil carbon, so organic matter will decline slowly but surely.
27 Most farm soils being "fed" by chemical fertilisers are losing organic matter and the ability to hold nutrients and moisture. They are becoming more drought-prone, and pasture growth rates are decreasing, especially with applied chemical urea. (In 1980, 16,000t of urea was used in NZ. Now it is 500,000t. Kiwi Fertiliser grows in excess of 23t/haDM with little or no added nitrogen.)
28 Over time, correct fertiliser policies substantially drought-proof the soil, build organic matter, and improve plant and animal health. Vet bills plummet.
29 If 1% humus soil can only hold 24,000 litres, or the equivalent of 24mm rain before the water runs off, then 5% humus soil can hold 144mm of rain. More than 144mm of rain falling on soil with 5% humus will be lost to runoff, (depending on intensity). If soil does not have good levels of humus, it will not store enough water to feed rivers over summer, which is why summer river flows are decreasing.
30 The majority of phosphate in acid phosphate products complex (tie up) with aluminium, calcium, manganese and iron within six weeks of application. Alkaline phosphate products cost more, but are better value, as they do not tie up and become fully available.
31 Phosphorus along with nitrogen is responsible for eutrophication of our water supplies. Eutrophication is increased algal growth and decreased oxygen levels of drains, rivers and lakes, owing to chemical phosphorus and nitrogen reaching waterways. 1kg of phosphorus can grow 350-700kg of algae.
32 Available phosphorus translates into better stock growth rates and weight gain. Replacing acid phosphorus with alkaline fertilisers and increasing calcium levels will cause elevated aluminium and iron levels to fall as the soil comes into balance. Weed pressure will also reduce.
33 Soluble phosphorus products kill vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (VAM). Mycorrhizal fungi can increase the roots effectiveness by 10-1,000 times, and plants grown with VAM have superior nutrition. Lack of VAM leads to soil erosion and leaching. New Zealand's rates of soil erosion and leaching are very high.
34 Soil scientists claim 16 elements are required to support life. However, some geneticists maintain that at least 64 nutrients are required for healthy life. If one or more minor element is missing, another can substitute, but it cannot carry out the same function as the missing nutrients, so disease will follow.
35 Potassium chloride (KCI) kills microbes; just 2ppm (4kg/ha) of chlorine is enough to cause harm and the net effect of this is a rock-hard soil. KCI also encourages certain weed growth. Potassium chloride has a salt index of 116, while Potassium sulphate has a salt index of 46. Insist on applying only Potassium sulphate. Use of KCl increases the leaching/erosion of N & P.
36 If nitrogen is high, potassium should also be at high levels. If both of these elements are at luxury levels, then all elements need to be lifted to luxury levels for maximum production (1:1 N:K). If tissue tests show high manganese and low zinc, that may indicate a potassium deficiency, regardless of the reported potassium level.
37 In general, the more NPK applied, the higher the yield, but the lower the mineral content, health and quality of that product. A balance of nutrients is required.
38 NPK grows crops, but does not build fertility or humus; carbon, calcium and microbes do. The higher the humus content the greater the ability of the soil to hold nutrients and moisture.
39 NPK has grown grass and is growing grass, but the decline of organic matter (or transfer of carbon to the atmosphere) is not sustainable or acceptable and must be addressed if farming is to be sustainable in the long term.
40 The label primary, secondary, major, trace, or minor signifies quantities of nutrients required; not their importance. All of the minerals need to be included in a balanced crop fertiliser as they are all important. A shortage of trace minerals will cause crop problems the same way missing major minerals do.
41 Copper and sulphur improve flavour and nutrition, along with potassium sulphate. Potassium chloride makes produce unpalatable. Adequate sulphur increases stem girth and leaf size. Stonefruit with uneven halves are lacking boron. Cracked stones and shrivelled kernels signify lack of manganese, Mn deficiency may lead to an excess of bull calves. K, Mn & Cu all contribute to timber strength. Sufficient K reduces trunk taper. Silicon strengthens plants’ ability to withstand pest and disease attack.
42 When base saturation comes into balance, foliar applications work more effectively and can have a positive effect on quality and yield.
43 Use pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and nitrogen in minimum amounts and only when absolutely necessary. Always add a carbon to those substances. These inputs are only a quick fix and are a sure sign that soil health is not optimum. Kiwi Fertiliser can show you how to at least halve these substances for equal or better results.