Home' Smart Farmer : February 2012 Contents February 2012
UTRIENT levels, soil acidity and ero-
sion can all impact on the health of a
Acidic soils can be detrimental to plant
growth because they restrict the availability of
plant nutrients, thereby limiting plant growth
which can often lead to a lack of ground cover,
increased weed growth and erosion.
Correcting soil nutrient levels by applying
fertiliser is important, however, overuse of fer-
tiliser can be a source of pollution.
For example, applications of phosphorus in
excess of plant requirements can pollute
watercourses and impact on water quality.
This is an important issue to consider
throughout the high-rainfall areas of the Mt
Laboratory tests on soil samples will diag-
Greater dangers of acid soils
evident in bare paddocks
nose and monitor the nutrient status of soils
and indicate the level of soil acidity (pH).
Summer and autumn is the best time to test
soils, while they are dry, since this is when the
nutrient levels are most stable. Test results are
most reliable and comparable to previous tests
at this time.
Leaf tissue tests are sometimes required to
accurately measure trace element deficiencies,
such as copper, zinc and manganese.
Test kits should provide details of sampling
It is important to test soils on a regular basis
(every three to four years) and sample different
soil types separately.
Soils are dynamic ecosystems containing
vast numbers of living organisms, mineral par-
ticles and organic matter which provide water,
nutrients and air for plant growth.
Your sampling technique should be consis-
tent so that results can be accurately compared
from one sampling period to the next.
If testing pasture or cropping paddocks,
about 30 cores to a depth of 10 centimetres
be collected and mixed thoroughly for labo-
ratory testing. Soil samplers are available from
natural resource centres.
Where perennial horticulture is being
planned, it is advisable to engage a qualified
professional to undertake a full soil survey
which involves examining soil at depth.
Soil test results should include recommen-
dations when deficiencies are identified, but if
further assistance is required when calculating
the level of fertiliser to apply, contact your
nearest natural resources centre, agricultural
outlet or local agronomist.
If soils are measured at less than pH 7 (in
water) they are considered to be acidic. If they
are less than pH 5.5 (in water) they are con-
sidered to be strongly acidic and can severely
reduce plant growth.
The ideal pH range for most plants is from
6.5 to 8.5.
In high-rainfall areas, such as the Mount
Lofty Ranges, soils are often naturally acidic
because nitrogen compounds can be leached
from the soil profile, leaving acid conditions
But the following land management prac-
tices, can accelerate the acidification process:
Intensive legume (clovers and medics) based
pasture production, removal of nutrients in
farm products (hay and silage), adding nitro-
gen fertilisers such as urea, ammonium sul-
phate and ammonium nitrate.
• Need to know more?
Eastwood 08 8273 9100, reception@
Gawler 08 8523 7700, gawler.office@
Lobethal 08 8389 5900,
Willunga 08 8550 3400,
Lime required to raise soil pH by about 1 unit.
Sand, loamy sand
Loam, sandy clay loam
Target pH for differential land uses.
Target pH Target pH
Extensive grazing 5.0 - 5.5 5.8 to 6.3
Intensive cropping 5.5
Most horticultural 5.5 to 6.5 6.0 to 7.0
Preferred ranges of pH (H20) for some
Crops Preferred pH (H2O)
4.5 to 8.5
5.0 to 7.0
5.0 to 7.5
5.5 to 7.0
5.5 to 8.5
6.0 to 7.0
6.0 to 8.0
6.0 to 8.0
6.0 to 8.5
6.5 to 7.5
Summer/autumn the best time to test soils
Engage qualified professional to undertake
full soil survey
Soil degradation can be corrected by addition
Various grades of limes are available. Check
with you adviser or merchandiser about
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