Timely launch of new service to make sense of soil science

Timely launch of new service to make sense of soil science2 June 2023

A new soil analysis and nutrient planning service, designed to help farmers gain a deeper understanding of their soil and take practical steps towards protecting and improving this key asset, is now available.

Known as SoilSense, the launch of this service from ProCam is particularly timely as farmers look to respond to changing agricultural policy and to increased awareness of the importance of soil health, says ProCam technical development manager, Rob Adamson.

“Current soil testing practices may provide information on soil macro- and micronutrient levels, but these figures don’t necessarily reflect what’s available to the plant,” explains Mr Adamson. “Plant availability of nutrition is complex due to interactions between the nutrients and the soil’s physical and biological properties.

“SoilSense aims to give clarity by providing information on both plant-available and soil-stock nutrient levels by using a range of key nutrient extraction methods. This gives a more in-depth understanding of the soil and its potential.

“Most farmers carry out some level of soil testing, but there’s a lot more that can be done to understand the results of these tests, and a lot more to be learned if the right soil characteristics are measured.”

Examining this in more detail, Mr Adamson says soil functionality is a combination of soil biology, physics and chemistry, plus soil organic carbon. Effective soil management requires an understanding of all these and the relationship between them, he says.

“Understanding what is plant-available is key to making agronomic decisions and growing crops efficiently. Basic macronutrient tests may tick a box of measuring indices of phosphorous and potassium, but we have to consider what we are learning from these results as indices don’t necessarily reflect what’s available to the crop.

“The same is true for nitrogen and sulphur. These elements work hand-in-hand, and have an intrinsic relationship with soil carbon and organic matter. SoilSense offers an understanding of how these aspects interact and takes in a wide range of factors specific to the soil in question to determine the amount of nitrogen likely to be available to the plant. This has the potential to improve the accuracy of nutrient management plans and to optimise crop performance.”

Although building soil carbon and organic matter has environmental appeal, Mr Adamson says it is also fundamental to crop resilience by helping soils to better retain moisture – which is of particular significance with increasingly-common summer droughts.

“The pressure to manage carbon is increasing. Unlike many industries, farmers are in a strong position to make positive and measurable changes to carbon sequestration. By offering a comprehensive analysis of organic matter and carbon, SoilSense helps growers to understand their carbon levels more accurately to chart soil health. It will also allow them to make positive changes to sequester more and reduce CO2 emissions with better soil management.”

ProCam UK managing director, Alex Collingwood says SoilSense is not just about analysis and benchmarking. By drawing on knowledge of the farm and wider experience, he says ProCam agronomists are able to interpret results and provide a practical nutrient planning service and bespoke soil improvement plan.

“Through our trials and experience, we can provide guidance on areas for improvement,” says Mr Collingwood, “for example by tailoring inputs to address imbalances that cause lock-up of nutrition, or in areas such as cover crop choice to mobilise certain nutrients. Our agronomists are well-placed to interpret the science and ensure the soil is working as efficiently as possible.

“With the changing nature of farm policy, evolving end user requirements and volatile commodity markets, we are confident in the science behind SoilSense, and in its ability to support growers with these changes.”

Farmers interested in SoilSense should contact their local ProCam agronomist or local ProCam depot or e-mail soilsense@procam.co.uk.