As farms have an increasing range of products and technological solutions at their disposal, it’s vital to remember the most important driver of profit and growth – healthy soil.

That probably applies to potato ground as much as for any other crop. According to Chloe Kyle – area manager for Yara, one of the leading providers of crop nutrition products and guidance for UK farmers – all action on the farm must take healthy soil as an essential starting point.

“A farm’s biggest asset is healthy soil and it has to operate properly for overall production efficiency,” she said. “You’ve got to start from the soil up to deliver the best possible results for you and your farm.”

She outlined the three major components of soil – chemical, biological and physical – but if just one of those is allowed to fall behinds, the effects will compromise overall soil integrity and ultimately harm production.

“As an example, let’s take soil biology. If the biology aspect is poor, the soil’s physical structure will suffer. Low worm presence will mean no natural mixing and the chemical component will remain unavailable to the plant.

“With just one aspect of soil health compromised, the entire crop will ultimately suffer. We need to always take a holistic approach of those three components and plan accordingly.”

Measuring the chemical, physical and biological status of soil gives valuable insight into whether your farm management practices are sustaining or improving overall soil health.

“The first step in improving soil health is to arm yourself with knowledge as to the state of your own farm. Issues that arise from nutrient deficiencies or imbalanced pH content are usually invisible to the eye.

“Often the results of poor nutrition can be seemingly minor – slight discolouration or reduction in yield – but below the surface are causing real damage. These issues will then intensify if not fixed, possibly delivering a real blow to a farm’s profitability,” she pointed out.

“The pH of soil also has a knock-on effect if it’s not at the right level. This can be shown very clearly in the case of NPK. The best soil pH should be between 6 and 6.5. If it falls outside that window even slightly, the losses can be substantial.

“For example, at a pH of 5.5, a bag of 27-4-4 effectively becomes 21-2-3. Can your farm afford to lose 24% of its fertiliser? Testing pH is a simple step, but it can help avoid serious losses in the field,” she said.

Soil testing is a crucial tool for protecting a farm’s soil. By making this a regular part of your farm’s routine, it becomes possible to determine the exact type and quantity of fertiliser required and adjust crop management strategies accordingly.

“Ideally, a whole farm should be tested every three years,” said Ms Kyle. “You can also break this up, testing a third of the farm every year. From the results of a soil test, we can then work to create a farm nutrient management plan that’s specifically tailored to your farm.

“Testing really is crucial for achieving the best results on farm. Without testing, you’re leaving your crop – and ultimately your livelihood – to chance.”



Ms Kyle added that many discussions around boosting yields or managing specific nutrients often overlook the foundation.

Without testing and using the full range of support open to you, soil health becomes a gamble. With poor soil health, a farm’s productivity and profitability is at a huge disadvantage.

“Soil testing takes the guesswork out of fertiliser application,” she added. “If application rates or PH aren’t right, then fertiliser won’t work to its full potential. Even if you’re using high quality products, the foundation needs to be right.

“Testing is the surest possible way to take control of soil health on your farm. If you combine that with expert advice and the right products, you’ve set your farm on course for success.

“Don’t underestimate what lies beneath. Soil health is the basis for the strongest possible start in crop establishment. By taking control of your soil health, you’re taking control of your farm.”