Sustainable Soil Management, HL Hutchinson Ltd, Weasenham Lane, Wisbech, PE13 2RN, 07970 286420

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The SSM Gold and silver analysis suites analyse a much wider range of parameters than the UK basic index soil test.

The UK basic index soil test is a good start to any nutritional program, but it still leaves unanswered questions about the availability and interaction between nutrients.

When a soil sample is taken it is used to measure the available nutrients and elements essential for crop growth. Analysis is done by using chemical extraction to extract nutrients from the sample and then measuring them. The amount extracted is then compared to standardised guidelines, established for the specific method used.

A key issue is that there are many different extraction methods used around the world, and comparing different methods can be very difficult.

In the UK the RB209 guidance for fertiliser is based on a uniform method established over several years, designed to anticipate the amount of nutrients available for the crop to access readily for growth in that season.

 SSM believe that there is more to plant growth than P, K Mag and pH.

The basic nutrients tested are only a snap shot of a soil's fertility, and in no way identify how these and all the other elements may work with or against each other within a crop's growing season.

It certainly doesn't anticipate any influence that environmental conditions may play in restricting root penetration and nutrient movement through a soils profile. And it certainly can't give any indication of a soil's biological health, and therefore misses a key driver of what allows soils to deliver consistent yields.

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Soil is a massively complex structure and we need to appreciate this. When we interfere with it through cultivations, nutrient applications etc. we change the balance in the soil which in turn affects the functionality of the soil.

Balance between the Chemical, Physical and Biological processes will deliver sustainable productivity.

Balance can vary in its preciseness, and we can't pretend that we will permanently change a soil. Soil is derived from its parent material, meaning that how we then farm it affects its properties - allowing for good root penetration, water infiltration, nutrient cycling etc.

What the SSM soil tests highlight is the overall nature of the soil, which is then translated into practical solutions to ensure we maximise the natural productivity of the soil. This could be done by changing cultivations (potentially to none) applying the right nutrients etc., delivering greater nutrient use efficiency allowing for better productivity.

There is no silver bullet solution, since every soil is different, and that's why SSM take an open and independent view on all solutions, offering recommendations that are not tied to or sponsored by any product manufacturers.