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Joe Melody is predicting a day will come where Irish farmers will be able to monetise on their carbon capture potential.

I was looking over a recent set of soil results for the farm this morning, our indexes for P and K are mostly 3 to 4 which is the optimal range to be in for grass growth, we invested heavily in building those P and K indexes over the past 6 years and it has resulted in extra grass growth.

However the pH of our soils needs a couple of tons of lime here and there to bring it to its optimum pH of approximately 6.2. Addressing the pH is the cheapest and fastest win in terms of grass growth. Why didn’t we start there? We will rectify it this season anyway and this should unlock much P and K from soil as well as release up to 80kg Nitrogen per hectare annually from the soil.

In former times farmers spread much more lime. In the 1980s farmers would have spread 1.7 million tons, this declined to 725,000 tons in the 2000s. It’s a cheap fertiliser, it’s natural, it gives natural life to the soil. The benefits of it are manifold. One issue we have to watch here is not to bring our soil pH beyond 6.2 as this will release molybdenum which causes copper deficiency in cattle.

High molybdenum soils aren’t everywhere but our farm is home to it. We have seen in the past that anywhere we have spread lime it has also sweetened the grass and resulted in cows grazing out paddocks cleaner thus resulting in high grass utilisation.

Sustainable farming is built on basic principles. I do feel sometimes that these do become lost in a world that has become so modern and has so many shiny farm toys that are vying for our attentions. If we get back to the basics of maintaining healthy high fertility status soils a lot of the rest of the puzzle will fall into place. Hillsborough a research institute in Northern Ireland has proven that regular addition of slurry to grassland increases soil’s ability to take in carbon from the atmosphere. Devinish research farm has proven that a soils ability to store carbon and organic matter is directly linked to its fertility status.

Climate change is very much the topic of the moment and is a key agenda across the western world. Carbon trading has become part of the world’s financial markets where large business that burn a lot of fossil fuels can offset their Carbon emmisions. My sense of it is that a day will come where Irish farmers will be able to monetise on the carbon capture potential of their soils by trading on something like these carbon markets. If that is the case the higher fertility status soils will garner a higher financial premium owing to their greater carbon sinking capacity.

When looked at in its totality, nature has given us a pure product that requires no fancy packaging or glossy sales pitch. All the other input categories are increasing in cost, lime is relatively static in price. If we want to get more from our land, just add lime!

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