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October 12, 2010 Dicalcic and lime use benefits farmers hit by extreme weather conditions

Pedologist Jude Addenbrooke believes farmers using lime and dicalcic phosphate are in a better position to cope with extreme weather conditions similar to what has struck part of New Zealand this year.

Ms Addenbrooke began a soil monitoring programme for Hatuma Lime last year and she has been impressed by the remarkable consistency of the findings from a wide range of farms throughout the North Island.

The programme evaluates the effects of long-term annual applications of light lime and dicalcic on a range of soil properties.

All the farms showed extremely good soil structure, good moisture holding capacity and drainage, high organic matter and extremely high earthworm counts.

‘It’s long been recognised that annual liming aids in the soil’s ability to store moisture more effectively while enhancing autumn and winter growth. This is hugely beneficial to the farmer in times of drought as the soil and pasture are able to ‘hold on’ longer and recover quicker,’ she says.

Climate experts are predicting that droughts on the East Coast of New Zealand will become more frequent.

More droughts means farmers will need to conserve water and Ms Addenbrooke is recommending light applications of lime and dicalcic to improve the soil’s moisture holding capacity.

‘This is to safeguard the farm.’

‘Future dry conditions could also lead to East Coast farms consistently having less stock due to lower pasture growth.

Pasture management that focuses on palatability ensures maximum utilisation without requiring an increase in stock. Applying lime to improve the palatability of pastures will also aid in clover regeneration and the recovery of the farm.’

The drought had a positive spin off for Hatuma as the company was able to produce more agricultural lime during autumn.

Hatuma marketing manager Aaron Topp said the drought provided perfect conditions for an extended period of time to enable Hatuma to harvest limestone.

‘We now have surplus stocks of premium agricultural lime ready for the spring topdressing season.’

This is good news for farmers with fertiliser prices soaring.

‘Despite these trends, Hatuma have for a limited period managed to lower their agricultural lime to its 1991 price.’

With the high cost of fertiliser Mr Topp says a cost effective alternative for farmers is to apply 200-500kg/ha of agricultural lime instead, especially with the capacity to blend extra sulphur, potash or required trace elements with it.

‘With the sudden increase in the price of conventional fertilisers and the intensifying pressure to cater for the environment, Hatuma’s dicalcic phosphate and lime blends make an even more cost effective and sustainable alternative for the annual topdressing programme.

Farmers can receive all the on-farm benefits such as better soil conditioning for drought resistance and increased palatability, as well as building a healthy soil environment for future generations,’ he said.

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