Page 16 - Manea Matters March 2019
P. 16


        n Issue 58 of Manea Matters,                                                        Allpress Farms therefore approached NIAB   second area is planted with a cover crop. Area
        we gave you  an insight into                                                     (the National Institute of Agricultural Botany),   three is spread with digestate. Area four has a
      Iour Anaerobic Digester, which                                                     who are strongly connected to Agri-Tech East,   cover crop and digestate, and area five is spread
      was established in 2014.  We                                                       and, along with Cranfield University and a   with a mycorrhizal fungi (a naturally occurring
      mentioned  in  the  article  that,  as                                             group of innovative farmers, we are looking at   group of organisms which benefit plants) and a
      well as  generating  energy,  the                                                  digestate trials. By doing the trials, we hope to   cover crop.  This field will be drilled with maize in
      plant produces organic material                                                    use the digestate like a regular fertiliser; thereby   May, which in turn will become feedstock for the
      resulting  from  the  process                                                      replacing the inorganic fertilisers which we   digester at time of harvest.
      (digestate), which is spread back                                                  currently purchase.  Yield data from the trials will   As  with  any  trial,  this  will take time –  at
      onto the land as fertiliser. The                                                   be collated and used to determine Nutrient Use   least two years; ideally four. Soil tests are
      plant currently produces about                                                     Efficiency (NUE).                      required through all stages (some visual, others
      12,000 cubic metres of digestate                                                      These trials will include measurements such   scientific).  Final yields of the maize need to be
      per year.  This article is to give you                                             as how to stabilise nitrogen in both the soil and   collated as well, to see if any difference in the soil
      a  basic  overview of  how  we  are                                                the digestate, the impact of the digestate on   condition and yields are obtained.  Doing this for
      planning to optimise the use of this    qualities (the material continues to break   soil microbiology, and whether or not the use   just one year will not give enough information to
      digestate, as it is rather an unknown quantity.    down within the soil, reducing nitrogen and   of cover crops (a crop grown for the protection   properly analyse any benefits.
        Digestate is rich  in nutrients and is  able to   phosphate leaching).  Leaching is the loss of   and enrichment of soil)
      replace some quantities of man-made fertilisers,   water-soluble plant nutrients from the soil   has an influence in the  “By doing the trials, we hope
      as well as increasing yield in crops planted after   due to rain and irrigation    process.             to use the digestate like a
      spreading digestate on the land.      •  improved workability of soils; especially heavy   Our  own  specific   regular fertiliser; thereby
                                              clay                                       trials include various   replacing the inorganic
      Other expected benefits of digestate include:-  •  improved water retention in light soils  measurements  taken
      •  the provision of a source of Nitrogen,   •  enhanced resistance to soil compaction and   from  a  field  that  fertilisers which we currently
       Phosphorus and Potassium (N, P and K), as   erosion                               had   recently  been  purchase.”
       well as Sulphur                      In order to measure the value of the digestate   harvested  of  crop.
      •  improvement of soil structure, drainage, water   and  the  influence  it  can  have  on  the  soil,  we   This is an ongoing
       retention and aeration; providing a better   needed to know how to manage the digestate,   process, but the basics
       rooting environment for plants          how to improve timing of application, and   of it is that the field is
           •  slow  nutrient  release            how to best apply it to the soil for best   sectioned off into five
                                                    crop uptake.                         areas. The first area is                            Photography courtesy of Emseephotography
                                                                                         simply left as it is. The



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