Following months of extremely poor weather conditions, farmers are under more pressure than usual to make the most of the potential of their forage crops.

Three experts in grassland nutrition have offered their advice and guidance, focusing on strong soil health and how this can drive strong grassland results, even following an unusually wet winter.

Yara’s Philip Cosgrave, Nigel Hester and Jon Telfer have each weighed in with specific strategies for improving soil nutrition and achieving better results.

Jon Telfer believes analysis should be key to realising your grass crop’s potential: “Soil is a farm’s biggest asset, and tools like soil health analysis and mineral analysis can ensure that asset receives the input it requires.”

“Producing good quality silage is the top priority after the horrendous conditions we’ve seen lately,” added Philip Cosgrave. “For a strong first cut, it’s important to work from the soil up. Use a soil test to work out your crop’s nutrient requirements and then act on it.”

Meanwhile, Mr Hester pointed out: “Many farmers are not managing grass to its full potential. Following a review of a large group of UK soil samples, over half of those tested below the target pH of 6, which will reduce nutrient availability.

“We need to treat grass like a crop. The question is do you grow grass, or just let your grass grow?”

With farmers looking to protect their bottom lines after particularly high rainfall and flooding, making the most of home-grown forage is key to getting the year off to a strong start.

“By assessing your soil, you can make sure everything is as it should be,” said Mr Telfer. “Poor soil causes huge damage to productivity.

“Without testing, it’s very difficult to quantify the extent of that damage. Make the best use of primary farm assets: the soil, manures and slurries. Testing each of those three components can contribute towards growing more grass and better grass.”

All three agree that using soil and manure analysis to create results-driven nutrient management plans will, in turn, help generate correct application rates, maximising return on investment while protecting the environment. However, Mr Hester stressed that improving application and nutrient management could save money and/or boost output.

“Aspects of the soil are vital when it comes to fertiliser effectiveness,” he said. “One nutrient deficiency can compromise the overall yield. If your soil is not managed properly, even the right fertiliser will not have the results it should.”

Better grassland management isn’t just about savings, said Mr Telfer: “There’s often a great deal more value in soil than we realise, Every 1% of organic matter in topsoil, that represents a tonne per ha of nitrogen, with similar levels for other nutrients.

“Many farmers have above 1% in their soil – they’re sitting on a ‘nutrient goldmine’ and they’re often unaware of it.

“Grassland farmers should make use of resources available and find a solution that works for your farm,” he added.