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Gosh can you believe it?  The first of March has already been and gone.  Over the past 5 days or so Autumn has definitely made itself felt with a deep low drifting down from the tropics providing a major rain event here in the north.

If the images on the news are any indication the dry spell is well and truly broken. Some might say the event could have arrived sooner but better late than never.  As long as temperatures remain at reasonable levels, grass growth should hang on for a few more months.  This will, of course provide good food stocks for livestock going into the winter.

I wonder how many of you are aware of the importance healthy grass growth is to the livestock under the ground.  During autumn after the dry of summer, there should be an explosion of activity in bacteria and fungi.  This is due to two things:  Higher soil moisture levels  which stimulates better grass production. Thicker, longer grass sward = more photosynthesis = more sugar exudate for the precious microbes. This being said the root depth should also increase significantly which will set your crop up nicely for the coming spring.

short rootsThis first photo illustrates the point well.  Taken in the Autumn on  conventionally managed irrigated dairy pasture you will note the roots depth is only about 9 too 10cm.

When Soil Foodweb NZ tested this soil for bacteria and fungi we found the fungal biomass was very low and hardly active.  The fungal component was being totally out competed by the bacteria.  This in turn created a collapsed soil profile which lead to anaerobic conditions and nutrient loss.

If no changes had of been made the outlook would have been bleak for the following spring.long roots

Fortunately this farmer realised the importance of a balanced biologically active soil.  The roots from the same paddock in this next photo show just how much the roots have grown. In  9 months they have  doubled in depth. Now down to 20cm.   The soil has ‘opened’ up and anaerobic conditions all but gone.

The nutrient cyclers;  worms and protozoa had plenty to eat and a good environment in which to flourish. The conditions to ensure the biological life would thrive were all there:  Water, food, home and comfort.

So what did this farmer do to set the soil environment for success?   He got his soil tested for starters – he realised he needed to know what was there and what wasn’t.  He then applied  biological inoculums with foods.  In this instance he applied it through his pivot.  As you can see by this result the effort paid off in spades.