The recent DEFRA survey “Farm Practice Survey” has revealed that 55% of farmers dig holes in fields to look at compaction, but more worryingly 45% do not. Digging holes to check soil structure and compaction is the only way to know for sure whether you need to spend money on subsoiling, sward lifting or aerating. Without looking at what is under the grass how can you know if there’s a problem?
This was very apparent recently when on farm. Walking across a grass field the comment was made that the field was not performing as well as the one next door even though they had been treated the same. The ground felt very hard under foot and the thought was the reduced growth was due to compaction and the field possibly needed sward lifting.
We dug a hole in the field, and it was immediately apparent that it was not the subsoil that was compacted but the top couple of inches. The time spent digging this hole will save the farmer £12 per acre in the difference between the cost of sward lifting and aerating, this is £1200 on 100 acres.
The survey also shows that over 30% of compaction on farms where holes were dug, runs right through the soil profile. This will have a significant effect on crop yields, drought tolerance as the roots cannot go deep to access water and disease resistance.
For more guidance on identifying compaction, visit http://beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Healthy-grassland-soils.pdf or contact the AHDB for a copy of their Great Soils Healthy Grassland Soils.
If you want help with soil management issues and putting together a soil improvement plan, then please contact Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org or your local FCG office.