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MPA Highlights Benefits of Lime to UK Food Security

The viability and potential profitability of any cropping system is largely dependent on the health and structure of its principal asset - the soil.  The challenges of climate change on weather patterns, escalating variable production and fixed costs determine that business viability, survival and success largely depend on managing the soil.  Healthy, well-structured soils offer every potential for maximising yield potential, whilst additionally affording opportunities for longer term sustainability.

Sustainable soils are based on adequate drainage, the correct degree of compaction/structure, and the appropriate soil pH - one wrong element can result in missed opportunities.  Record rainfall and flooding are leaving soils saturated and anaerobic (lacking in air and oxygen).  This presents the perfect situation for nutrient leaching and increasing acidity.   Now, prior to land work and fertiliser application, is the best time to walk fields and check soil pHs.  Producing evidence of acidity in crops is costly.

Lime is traditionally bought from the nearest quarry but, be aware, lime quality varies: “Coarse materials will neutralise your bank balance, but not your soil acidity”. Reputable merchants and suppliers will be able to provide the producers’ ‘Product Data Sheet’.  This document supports compliance with current UK Fertiliser Regulation, covering all recognised agricultural liming materials. 

What should you look for?  It is legally required that all producers of agricultural lime products detail the name of the material i.e. Ground or screened limestone etc.  Trade names are permitted, but must name the parent rock.  The term “Aglime” is illegal.  The declared neutralising value (NV) should be provided and will depend on the parent rock type - Limestone is typically around 50 – 54 NV.  Finally, the percentage of material passing a 150 micron sieve should be set out.  This final declaration on sizing might sound superfluous, but is crucial to the speed with which your chosen product will react to reduce acidity and increase soil pH and, therefore, to its effectiveness.  Every load should be accompanied with a weighbridge document which includes these declarations.  Without this guarantee the price may be acceptable but the product may be less so.

Historically, the agricultural lime subsidy was only paid on materials which met regulatory standards of proven quality.  Regulation (EC) 2003/2003 Fertilisers will soon incorporate all agricultural liming materials as EC Fertilisers (Lime). This pan-European regulation will stipulate new EU specifications for liming products to ensure materials of proven quality are delivered.

As Winston Churchill was quoted “Price is what you pay, quality is what you get”.

Ends.

The original article can be found here on page 21.

For further information please contact Stephen Hill via ala@mineralproducts.org

 
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