Soil’s resilience put to the test

Andy Goulding
October 24, 2018

after these sudden and frequent heavy rainfall events that our soil’s resilience is put to the test.

Many of us were on the home stretch of the autumn drilling campaign and some were lucky enough to finish, but as I write the rain has come lashing down. Hopefully by the time you are reading this it has dried out enough for the soil to become friable again and we can finish our planned autumn cropping.

It is after these sudden and frequent heavy rainfall events that our soil’s resilience is put to the test. Aggregates in over-worked soils lacking in biological glues and organic matter will break down rapidly. Sediment will have started to produce a cap on the soil surface, reducing the infiltration rate and resulting in surface ponding. With better soil health and structure we can increase the number of days available for cultivation which is essential in a high rainfall area such as here. Couple that with slashing establishment costs, better trafficability, grass-weed control, increased worm numbers and subsequent nutrient cycling – reducing ones’ tillage in conjunction with residue management is an area we should all be looking to challenge our thought processes.

Most crops have passed the opportunity for their residual herbicide to be applied pre-emergence, with the priority of getting through the drilling workload. This will not be detrimental to the vast majority of land (being grass weed free) and will coincide with manganese applications on light land – and an early Pyrethroid on the few non-deter treated crops.

On average, maize crops are well into being harvested with excellent cob fill and DM, which should clamp well and provide a good quality winter forage. Ground conditions have been variable with the bouts of rain, with the evidence being 2 brown lines up the carriageway. With the high level of risk to soil damage, erosion and penalties that ensue, surely in some instances it is time we adopted practices such as under-sowing to reduce that risk to the benefit of all parties. No farmer wants to see their fields in a mess and no contractor wants to spend a large proportion of their time pulling one another out of sticky situations!