As crops grow, they absorb nutrients from the soil, effectively removing compounds of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, from the soil. When crops are harvested and taken away for processing, the fields are left bereft of nutrients. Livestock also reduces soil quality through grazing. Nutrients and energy are transferred from the ground into the grass that is eaten by livestock. Often those nutrients and energy are not adequately replaced by manure. And so, season after season of harvesting and grazing leads to exhausted soil. As a result, the land becomes less fertile, crops grow poorly, and harvest yields are reduced. Farmers use fertilisers to put back into the soil the nutrients that have been removed by growing crops. However, fertilisers are not the only way to achieve good crop yield. Improving soil health in the long-term by mulching with organic matter will lead to quality crops and long-term field viability. By using mulch, you can minimise your use of fertilisers.
There are synthetic chemical fertilisers produced in factories, or there are organic fertilisers such as manure. Both kinds of fertilisers contain the essential nutrients needed for crops to grow well. Different crops require a different balance of nutrient compounds. Choosing organic fertilisers allows you to customise the right balance of nutrients for your specific crop’s needs.
“The adverse publicity given by the media to agriculture’s role in polluting the environment may make farmers feel guilty about using fertiliser. However, reducing fertiliser input can lead to reduced plant growth which can aggravate problems such as soil erosion. If you apply fertilisers sensibly, so that plants use all the nutrients and none are leached, there is little opportunity for pollution.” (NSW Government Department of Primary Industry)
Fertiliser use guidelines from the NSW Government Department of Primary Industry
- Don’t top-dress dams, streams or swampy areas
- Don’t top-dress bare ground
- Maintain good groundcover around dams and streams
- Avoid topdressing when heavy rain is expected
- Use the least acidifying fertiliser you can afford
- Apply it in small amounts frequently rather than all at once, to minimise nitrate leaching
For more information on this topic, contact your nearest NSW Agriculture horticulturist or agronomist.
Another method for maintaining soil health and compound balance is crop rotation. “In a field they grow a plant that puts nutrients into the soil, for example the leguminous plant, clover, then the next year they grow a crop that uses these nutrients. This cycle is repeated to ensure that the nutrients in the soil are not exhausted.” (BBC Radio 1)
As mentioned above, livestock seriously affect the quality of your farm’s soil. Grazing continuously on the same pasture depletes the nutrients in the ground. By moving livestock around different paddocks, you give the unused ground the opportunity to recover and improve. Whilst livestock are in a different paddock this is the perfect time to mulch the empty paddock. Giving back to the soil will help you in the long run by keeping the land healthy, improving the health of livestock and in turn your profit margins. Mulched paddocks are also more palatable to livestock.
Mulch to Supplement
Fertilising can be expensive and time consuming if you take measures to be environmentally friendly. Some form of fertiliser can be essential to your farming methods and mulching can be a way of reducing your need for fertiliser. Using mulch may not eliminate your use of fertiliser completely, but it can help to reduce costs and the dangers of chemical pollution.
Why Choose Organic
If you can, work towards using only organic soil enhancers such as mulch, compost, and manure. Organic matter is the best solution to make your farm environmentally friendly. Organic matter not only works to improve crop growth, but also sustains soil health long term. Covering your fields with mulch, compost, and/or manure protects soil from drying out, eroding, and the growth of weeds.
What is Mulch?
Mulch is organic material placed on the surface of the soil. Create your own mulch for free using a Muthing Mulching Mower. By mulching pasture in the crop off-season or trimming stubble after a harvest you generate your own mulch. The Muthing Mulching Mower evenly distributes mulch behind it as it cuts.
Improving Your Soil with Mulch
A long-term plan for mulching will improve soil health and quality so that you can reduce your use of fertilisers.
- Mulching puts a protective layer on the soil, reducing evaporation and improving moisture retention. Moist soil is less prone to erosion and weed growth.
- By retaining moisture in the soil, mulch helps to regulate soil temperature. This provides the ideal habitat for earthworms and other organisms such as ground beetles and centipedes. Earthworms help to decompose the mulch, adding nutrients to the soil. Whilst ground beetles and centipedes contribute to pest control.
- Grass’ energy stores are held close to their roots. Cutting the stalks of grass does not sacrifice this energy. As the mulch on the surface of the freshly cut grass serves as feed for the grass to regrow, the energy stores are in effect heightened. Therefore, if you are employing a pasture rotation strategy for grazing animals or crops, you can be assured that each time you return to a resting pasture it will be as viable as before.
- Like a shield, mulch protects soil from heavy rain and filters water and runoff. Mulch absorbs water and stabilises soil moisture content over time.
Reduce Fertiliser Use with a Muthing Mulcher
By applying mulch to your fields and improving soil health over the long-term you will use less fertiliser. With the ground already nutrient full, the extra boost of fertiliser may not be necessary. Contact Southern Cross Ag Machinery for information about our range of Muthing Mulching Mowers – German quality at its best! Versatility, innovation and durability. You will love your new equipment from Southern Cross Ag Machinery for its reliable engineering, top of the range efficiency, and guaranteed results.
Muthing Mowers have a range of benefits that will assist you with mulching your land. These benefits include (but are not limited to):
- The use of Qst/E steel which reduces mulcher weight by approximately 15% while also increasing machine strength. This results in: longer machine life, reduction in Mulcher body cracks and fuel consumption, the possible use of smaller tractors with lower HP using a larger working width Mulcher.
- Specially formed Mulcher body allows for smoother flow of shredded material, reduction in fuel costs and longer life.
- Gearboxes with integrated over-run clutch
- Patented, removable and segmented shredding bars “Shark Fin” reduces maintenance and service costs.
- High tempered spring steel one-way protection flaps in front of mulcher provides protection against stones and foreign objects.
- Self-cleaning roller facilitated by rotating hammers or shackle flails means no “push up” of cut materials and no sticking of grass, straw or stubble to roller.
- Mulched material is spread evenly behind roller leaving no windrows of mulched material.
Reduce your use of fertiliser and invest in a Muthing Mulcher today. Choose from the large range of German Muthing Mulchers; call us on (02) 4932-3011 to discuss which model suits your requirements, we will be more than happy to assist.