It can be difficult to know where to start with increasing crop yield due to the number of impacting influences on it. But thankfully there are preventable measures that have a disproportional effect on your crop yield.
In this article, we’ll help you understand four aspects that affect your crop yield and how you can do something to improve it.
Ensure your soil has a balanced nutrient supply
Soil fertility is based on the principle of the weakest link. Basically, this means that the most efficient element is the one affecting your yield. It is vital that your soil has enough of the nutrients responsible for plant growth. These nutrients include nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulphur (S), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and several trace elements.
We recommend carrying out a basic soil test within an accredited laboratory and if recommended, add fertilizer to your land as advised by your agricultural consultant. Most importantly, aim for a target index of 3 for P and K, phosphorus and potassium.
Ensure your soil meets its trace elements requirement
On top of the nutrients tested in a basic soil test, you can test for the trace elements to learn more about how to increase your soil fertility and thereby increase your crop yield.
The most common trace elements to test for include copper, cobalt, zinc, iron, manganese, boron, and molybdenum. This is called the Trace Elements Suite. Note that individual trace elements can be sourced from merchants and applied to the soil directly or as a foliar spray.
Ensure your soil has the optimum pH
The ideal pH for agricultural grassland soil is 6.3. The slightly acidic pH level indicates that your soil does not contain manganese or aluminium, which are harmful to the plant at toxic concentrations.
If your soil is acidic, adding lime will make it more alkaline, bringing you closer to the target pH. Without an accredited laboratory test, it is impossible to know the correct amount of lime to add. It is very important to note that when pH is optimized, the uptake of other nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is optimized at the root level.
This results in greater crop yield and less waste. Lime is added as calcium carbonate or ground limestone. The report will tell you how much lime to add.
Ensure your soil has the ability to hold nutrients
There are two important properties of soil to look for when determining its ability to hold nutrients. They are
Organic matter improves soil structure, which in turn gives better aeration, and better drainage. This reduces the likelihood of soil becoming compact. It also lessens the effect of drought by retaining water. If the organic matter of soil is greater than 4%, its ability to hold nutrients will be quite good.
Apply organic matter from manure or slurry in the autumn, or preferably in the spring. Decide which fields to target to maximize yields. Make sure to spread it on the low P and K index fields first.
Cation exchange capacity
Increasing the organic matter of soil also enhances its current exchange capacity. If the soil has a good texture by having a good mix of sand, silt and clay, then it will have a good cation exchange capacity and will be able to retain the essential nutrients in store.
The excessive leaching of ammonium and trace elements is also prevented.
Ensure you test your soil
It goes without saying, the more you know about your soil’s condition, the more you can improve its health. If you’re looking for a fast and accurate turnaround on your soil analysis, check out Southern Scientific’s Express Soil Testing Service: https://southernscientificireland.com/agricultural-soil/
The important factors to test and implement changes for are P, K and Lime requirement and organic matter than the current exchange capacity height.