Wet conditions

Published 24 January 14

Chris Duller, independent soil and grassland consultant, talks about the impact of the recent wet weather on slurry, and fertiliser applications and grazing.

“Wet soils with low oxygen content have very little capacity to absorb slurry or dirty water. In addition to increased risk of run-off, you are also far more likely to kill earthworm populations.

“Compaction damage from wheelings can be twice as deep when soils are wet, so try and avoid all non-essential traffic such as hedge cutting.

“Target drier fields for early grazing and save wetter fields for a dry/frosty morning. On-off grazing is good for reducing poaching damage and use back fence at all times while it’s wet.  Multiple access points will also reduce the amount of poaching around busy entrances and exits,” he says.

“Soil temperatures in many areas are still above 5°C. Where soils are free draining and relatively dry, you will see a response to nitrogen. However, leaching risks are high on this type of ground. Target no more than 30kg N, ideally as urea, but pick your days. If we get a mild spell (10°C plus) then urea losses could be high.

“Where soils are in good health they have continued to break down organic matter through this mild winter, releasing a small amount of nitrogen and keeping everything fairly green. Where there are issues with compacted or poorly drained soils you’ll  have seen a lot of yellow and dying leaves in the autumn, a combination of disease damage (rust and dresclera) and senescence.

“Take this opportunity to walk your fields, check how your closing grass covers have developed and look out for fields with lots of yellow leaf material - those are the ones you need to be soil testing and digging in to check out the soil structure,” Chris concludes.