Fixing chemical imbalances in soil boosts saleable yields, Glenside Group reports

A farm trial this summer has shown that correcting chemical imbalances and physical problems in the soil can help raise yields of good-quality, saleable potatoes by more than 60 per cent.

The Glenside Group, a Scottish crop consultancy that helps improve the natural fertility of farms, revealed at the British Potato event in Harrogate last week that it used the Albrecht Soil Survey on field trials in Ayrshire earlier this year.

The survey, named after scientist William Albrecht, tests for all major and minor elements in the soil.

For the trial, completed at John Duncan's farm just South of Ayr, most of a field of Osprey potatoes was managed according to the results of the Albrecht test and the rest according to the farm's existing practice.

Test digs completed according to protocols developed by the University of Aberdeen showed that the Glenside-treated part achieved 61 tonnes/ha yield, while the farm's existing practice yielded 36 tonnes/ha.

The Glenside crop was made much more valuable and saleable by the fact that around two thirds of it was in the target 55mm-75mm size range - compared to less than 20 per cent of the conventionally-grown crop, most of which was smaller.

Glenside technical director Robert McCoull said the improvements have significant commercial value. "In a year like this - with plentiful supplies of potatoes on the market - buyers can be choosy so even when prices are comparatively modest, there is still a benefit to achieving quality".

The Albrecht test helped identify and quantify several problems that a standard soil test might not have done, including low calcium levels; a calcium to magnesium ratio that was far from ideal; very low organic matter levels and very high iron.

Correcting the calcium levels helped improve the quality of the tubers, which had a much better skin finish.

McCoull added that additional problems of specific importance to potato growers were also found, such as low boron and manganese levels.

"Low boron is serious for potato growers because it is essential for the transport of starch and calcium and the formation of healthy tubers. These were corrected by applying 8kgs/acre of Glentrace Boron and 4kgs/acre of Glentrace Manganese."

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