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Muck and straw exchange makes perfect sense, August 29th

One has a supply of a rich source of nutrients readily available, and the other has an excess of straw following harvest each season, but do livestock and arable farmers really make the most of each other's naturally-produced assets during the course of the farming calendar?

BT's old adage that "it's good to talk" could be something for livestock and arable farmers to bear in mind more often in their never ending quest to secure on the one hand; straw for bedding, and, on the other, fertiliser for application to nutrient hungry soils.
There is a certain amount of co-operation between livestock and arable farmers, believes Matrix Ag's Mark Tripney, an agricultural adviser based in the North West, but he suggests there is an opportunity for both sets of producers to work closer together.
- Any intensive livestock farm will have a surfeit of nutrient requirements from manures, particularly where phosphate levels are concerned, and it's a problem for them in terms of what to do with it, he says.
Where arable farms are concerned, the benefits of receiving a fertiliser in the form of farm yard manure (FYM) or slurry, as part of an exchange deal for straw, stretch way beyond that of simply a cheaper source of nutrient supply for their soils.
- Manures of course offer the potential to deliver certain levels of nutrients including nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potash (K), as well as trace elements, which would replace some use of conventional fertilisers and their associated cost, but it's the soil that is the real winner, he stresses.
- The improvement in soil organic matter from manures is the big benefit; an increase in microbial life, more worms, better structure and buffering capacity can all be gained from the regular application of manure to arable land. Structural improvements and workability of the soil long-term are key to improving soil performance both in terms of nutrient holding capacity and structural integrity.


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