If farmers are thinking of renovating a sward via stitching in, minimal cultivation or ploughing, it is important to assess your soil and rectify problems beforehand to gain the full benefits of the renovation. The simplest method of achieving this is by digging holes (50cm x 50cm) across the field. Determine the soil texture by assessing proportions of sand, silt and clay present.
Keep an eye for the following things;
• Topsoil depth can vary geographically and will be shallower under permanent pasture.
• Check for compaction plates.
• Rusty grey mottled soils indicate poor drainage.
• Foul smells are a sign of anaerobic conditions when soils are water logged.
• Root depths should be at least 30cm.
• Presence of earthworms (10-15 in block).
• Plenty of vertical cracks and pores.
In soils, compaction can happen, which usually results from either farm vehicles or livestock; it has a negative effect on growth, yield and quality along with soil structure and drainage.
Four approaches to alleviating soil compaction are:
1 Sub soiling.
4 Management techniques; ie addition of lime.
• Dig a hole and assess the physical characteristics of the soil.
• Carry out soil analysis to identify the nutrient and chemical characteristics.
• Existing drainage systems need maintenance.
For a more in-depth look http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/farming/livestock/beef-cattle/beef-news/bs-dig-deep-before-reseeding.htm