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The FFC Bulletin 2015 V1 – Fundamentals of Soil Nutrient Management, Soil Testing and Fertiliser Recommendations

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By Charles Merfield

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Soil management is topic of increasing interest among farmers, growers and the world at large, as evidenced by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) declaring 2015 to the ‘International Year of Soils’. This is being driven by a wide range of issues, from practical farming concerns such as improving productivity, all the way through to global issues such as soil degradation and the linkage between soil and climate change. Improving soil quality / health is therefore every bodies business.

However, coupled with this growing interest in soil quality, there feels like there is an equivalent increase in the confusion about how best to manage soil. For example, there is a growing plethora of ‘biological’ / ‘organic’ fertilisers (i.e., as opposed to mineral / inorganic fertilisers), along with a growing array of soil testing approached and laboratories, all claiming to be able to help farmers and growers improve their soils and/or their bottom lines.

The purpose of the report is to sort the wheat from the chaff and explain the role of ‘chemical’ soil tests within an overall soil management plan including fertiliser recommendations, managing soil organic matter and soil biology.

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The report originated as a series of articles in the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association’s (IOFGA) ‘Organic Matters’ magazine in 2014 and 2015. (Addendum 2023 IOFGA is now the Irish Organic Association (IOA).

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