Soil depletion means fewer nutrients available

Recent studies show that 33% of global soil and over half of agricultural soil are “moderately or highly degraded” due to management practices. Degraded soil has fewer nutrients and microbes, reducing the quality and quantity of what we can grow.

Phosphate is one of the most expensive nutrients on a per kilo basis, yet it’s repeatedly applied in excess at the expense of other trace nutrients. An excess of one nutrient for short-term results contributes to further long-term depletion of soil health.

What do all those nutrients do?

There are 13 elements needed for healthy pasture growth, and 3 more for animal health. Each plays a critical role, but too much or too little can be detrimental. That’s why an in-depth soil analysis is part of what we do to create a custom fertiliser specific to your needs.

You need all key elements in your soil

A lot of the time, the farmer’s budget is gone by the time they’ve applied phosphate, as it’s one of the most expensive nutrients on a kilo basis, and the other elements are neglected. But they are so important.

For healthy pasture growth you need 13 elements and a further 3 for animal health. Generally farmers only apply nitrogen, phosphate, sulphur and potassium. Over application of those kinds of minerals can do a lot of damage. Liming is important to manage soil acidity, this impacts pasture growth and animal health.

Gordon Rajendram Ph.D.
Independent Soil Scientist

Plant growth

Nitrogen is one of the most widely distributed elements in nature and it’s the most abundant gas in the atmosphere. Soil-based N undergoes many complex biological transformations that make it challenging to manage.

Nitrogen supports plant growth and encourages the healthy development of foliage and fruit.

Plant development

The function of phosphorus in plants is very important. It helps a plant convert other nutrients into usable building blocks with which to grow. Phosphorus is one of the main three nutrients most commonly found in fertilisers.

Phosphorus is essential to a plant’s growth.

Plant health

Potassium is essential in nearly all processes needed to sustain plant growth and reproduction. Plants deficient in potassium are less resistant to drought, excess water, and high and low temperatures.

Potassium improves the overall health of growing plants and helps them fight against disease, it is known as the “quality” nutrient.

Nutrient absoption

Calcium is an essential nutrient that carries a heavy load in plant growth. Calcium, along with magnesium and potassium, helps to neutralise organic acids, which form during cell metabolism in plants.

Calcium also plays a role in other key plant functions, such as the absorption of other nutrients by roots and their translocation within the plant.

Photosyntesis support

Energy is required for proper plant growth. Crops require magnesium to capture the sun’s energy for growth and production through photosynthesis. Magnesium is also an essential component of the chlorophyll molecule.

Magnesium is essential for phosphate metabolism, plant respiration and the activation of several enzyme systems.

Plant strength

Sulphur is supplied to plants from the soil by organic matter and minerals, but it is often present in insufficient quantities.

Sulphur is part of every living cell and required for synthesis of certain amino acids and proteins. Sulphur is also important in photosynthesis and crop winter hardiness.

Crop production

Most farmers disregard the sodium level in their soil, unless there is too much. Sodium levels can, however, have impact on production. Excess sodium indicates poor soil structure and can potentially reduce the uptake of other nutrients by plants.

Supports cell membranes

Boron is one of the most important micronutrients affecting membrane stability. Boron supports the structural and functional integrity of plant cell membranes. Other functions include the maintenance of the plasma membrane and other metabolic pathways.

Metabolic functions

Manganese functions primarily as part of enzyme systems in plants. It activates several important metabolic reactions and plays a direct role in photosynthesis. Manganese accelerates germination and maturity while increasing the availability of phosphorus and calcium.

Plant growth

Iron is essential for crop growth and food production. Plants take up Iron as the ferrous (Fe2+) cation. Iron is a component of many enzymes associated with energy transfer, nitrogen reduction and fixation, and lignin formation.

Plant and animal health

Small amounts of cobalt are essential for good health. A lack of cobalt in a form which plants or organisms are able to absorb can have major effects on the health of the animals in an area. Cobalt in soil is also necessary for the healthy functioning of some plants.

Plant growth

Copper is an essential element for plant growth. Copper activates enzymes and catalyses reactions in several plant-growth processes. The presence of copper is closely linked to Vitamin A production, and it helps ensure successful protein synthesis.

Crop yield

Zinc was one of the first micronutrients recognized as essential for plants and the one most commonly limiting yields. Although Zinc is required only in small amounts, high yields are impossible without it. In plants, Zinc is a key constituent of many enzymes and proteins. It plays an important role in a wide range of processes, such as growth hormone production and internode elongation.

Animal health

Selenium in soils and plants is important for livestock nutrition. Selenium deficiency has turned out to be much more common than Selenium toxicity. Selenium deficiency is a severe problem in a couple of places around the world, one of which is New Zealand.

Plant growth

Molybdenum is required for the synthesis and activity of the enzyme nitrate reductase. Considering molybdenum’s importance in optimizing plant growth, it’s fortunate that Molybdenum deficiencies are relatively rare in most agricultural cropping areas.

Animal health

Iodine is one of seven generally recognised micro minerals needed in the diets of dairy cattle and other animals. It is unique among minerals, because a deficiency leads to a specific and easily recognizable thyroid gland enlargement, called goiter.

Plant and animal health

Plant growth

Taihape
5

We’re pretty happy with what we’ve achieved. There’s been big improvements made from coming here, with the health of our livestock and farm in general.

Taihape
5

John and I had long and involved conversations about what should be in the product to try and mitigate some of the issues we farmers were facing out in the field. It was a relief to find a system that would give you another tool in dealing with some of these issues.

Whatawhata
5

The animal health bill dropped. It’s due to the way we changed how we are treating our stock, right from the grass and what we are putting on it.

Let's talk about the quality of nutrients in your farming soil