‘Test and trace’ has become a well coined phrase during 2020, but it is also a practice that can be applied to improve crop management.
With soil analysis every three-five years as the accepted philosophy for monitoring crop nutrition, Prof Roger Sylvester-Bradley said this is limiting the amount growers know about the effectiveness of their whole nutrition programme.
Speaking during the CropTec Show Crop Nutrition seminar he said: “Soil tests tell us the level of three out of 12 nutrients and pH, which tells us a bit about availability of some of the others. During the spring, neither soils nor leaf analysis tells us about the success of our whole nutrition programme.”
Using the same technique used on leaf analysis, it is now possible to carry out a ‘field by field post-mortem’ on crops by testing grain, he said.
“It is much easier to take a representative sample of a crop using grain, than from field samples of soils or leaves. We can then see which 12 nutrients we’ve harvested and are introducing into the food chain.
Furthermore, if you’ve got this measurement, you can look at the recovery of nutrients in the crop.
YEN Nutrition also means growers can ‘trace’ or benchmark their nutrition strategies against others on the programme anonymously.
Prof Sylvester-Bradley added: “This is quick and effective way of working out the impact of the season on your crop.
“We should have been testing and tracing for years to help us to be much more certain in the judgements we have to make about crop demand and soil supply.
“Ultimately, we are going to discover we are making mistakes. It will probably mean you have to change your product, timings or practices but we will not know whether this has worked unless we do product testing.”