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Timac Agro: Build Better Soils to Help with SFI Funding

Member News
Timac Agro UK Timac Agro UK
The views expressed in this Member News article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of Agri-TechE.

Farmers will need to gain a better understanding of their soils to meet the new Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) ‘arable soils’ standard.

David Newton, Timac Agro technical manager, says this knowledge will be key to accessing future funding, but also for supporting future crop growth.

“The SFI funding aims to encourage activities which improve soil health, but it can be hard to know where to even begin,” he says.

“Under the current guidelines, farmers and growers can receive £22/ha at an introductory level, or £40/ha at an intermediate level for the ‘arable and horticultural soils’ standard, so it’s well worth investing in your soil health.”

Mr Newton shares his top tips to help meet the new arable soils standard:

  1. Take soil testing to the next level 

Mr Newton recommends going above and beyond when it comes to getting soil tested, and to seek advice from someone who can determine the soil analysis results.

“Don’t just test for soil pH and macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) – the scheme requires a test for organic matter levels, so why not test trace elements and assess your soil structure at the same time?” he says.

  1. Understand your soil type 

“Understanding your soil type means understanding it’s advantages and challenges; how best to work with it and improve its health and biology,” says Mr Newton.

Soil type influences structure and its consequent ability to retain nutrients and water, as well as its workability.

He explains that lighter, sandier soils can be more acidic and prone to leaching due to their porous nature; they can also have lower organic matter levels, which consequently affects soil biology.

“On the other hand, heavier clay soils are more prone to compaction and poorer water drainage due to smaller particle sizes and are heavier to work. However, often they are more fertile and retain organic matter more efficiently,” says Mr Newton.

Therefore, understanding your soil type will help you find ways to improve soil structure.

  1. Understand your trace elements 

Mr Newton says crops require a host of essential nutrients for growth and requesting a more detailed soil analysis for nutrients, such as sulphur, calcium, manganese, copper, iron and boron, can help you predict any deficiencies and limitations to plant growth in the future.

  1. Maximise your soil biology 

Encouraging soil biology to thrive is paramount to soil processes, such as the mineralisation of organic matter to provide nutrient availability for plants.

“Using a soil conditioner, such as Humistart+, can help provide a better environment for fungi and bacteria to thrive, in turn encouraging rapid break down of organic matter and the release of nutrients,” he explains.

  1. Maximise nutrient use efficiency 

Mr Newton says taking steps to better understand your soils and carrying out practices which enhance soil biology and fertility will lead to maximised nutrient use efficiency.

“Under the current circumstances where the cost of fertiliser is still high, improving your nutrient use efficiency is paramount, as well as reducing risks such as soil run-off and leaching – an ultimate goal the SFI standards are wishing to achieve,” he adds.

For more information, please see Humistart+ on the Timac Agro UK website.