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Autumn Ground Preparation is Here!

Ground Preparation;

           Ground preparation is by far the most important job of the year. Farmers around Victoria have started preparing since early Jan for autumn planting. But if you haven't started; there is still time. We need to give ourselves a little time to source all the inputs and work them in appropriately.

           What not to do; A larger portion of growth problems during the season can be worked back to errors in ground preparation. Ground preparation has two parts; tillage and fertiliser choice. For example tillage can bring up subsoil and dilute the availability of nutrients at the surface. The plant will express its discomfort through disease or slow growth. Alternatively, we don’t break up the compaction and our crop wilts at the first hint of water stress from shallow roots. Fertilisers errors in soil prep include; to much, not enough, or of the wrong kind entirely resulting in stunted plants, and self created diseases. Nutrition is the first line of defence against disease, therefore it is also the first cause of disease when badly managed.

            If you have planted poor, then during the season you can expect your crop to have issues. So your crop looks awfull and you call in an expert! Most call for help when their crop is dying at which point the most practical thing to do is leave it to its rightful destiny. This is the part I want you to all avoid. The industry has developed amazing tools to keep plants in the “intensive care unit” at a price. The best money in agriculture, is made from providing solutions to emergencies that only work for a season. I believe this is the primary reason why farming becomes unprofitable, because money is wasted on interventions rather than long term prevention. Ground preparation and soil development is a long term strategy to keeping disease away and maintaining good growth.


What does a nutrition program look like?

Ground preparation involves getting the nutrition right, but let’s expel some confusion here! There are two types of nutrition programs that are happening simultaneously which confuses just about everyone.

A Soil Nutrition Program;

This happens at the very start of each season or when your soil looks like the left-hand picture. It needs initial corrections before attempting to grow a crop. Soil nutrition focuses on restoring nutrient functions, repair major mineral deficiencies and correct pH. These amendments are only made at the start of the growing season and are generally incorporated.

A Plant Nutrition Program (or Maintenance Program);

Is fertiliser applied at any time during the season, for example to give a boast at the start or a topdressing during the season to keep things going. These fertilisers focus on feeding the plant and maintaining the soil nutrient reserves. Fertiliser rates are based on how much nutrition the plant removes from the soil (which is generally very little)

When your soil is in good shape you only need a maintenance fertiliser strategy to keep things going which usually is very cheap and simple. If maintained well a soil can perform for many years. High value crops would be tested yearly and pastures generally every 3 years to maintain high levels of performance but for gardeners one test correcting the soil nutrition followed by a good maintenance plan can work for 3 to 20 years. The range in years is only dependent on the grower’s skills. If diseases or growth problems begin to appear, it indicates something is wrong with soil preparation or how the plant is being taken care of and requires more testing to repair it.  

VSS’s testing services initially focused on repairing the soil's nutrition, but we have upgraded to also include guidelines on maintenance.

Coronavirus and Soil Nutrition; Selenium is an essential micronutrient that is important for immune response, thyroid health and preventing oxidative damage to name a few things. Due to its function’s selenium should be considered as a defense against viral infectious diseases. A study from 2011 linked the spread of viral infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, influenzas, SARS, Ebola, Swine Flu, Bird Flu) to areas where soil selenium levels are lower mapping out soil selenium deficiencies against the origin of new viruses. Bad news for Australia, New Zealand and China who are known for low levels of selenium.

VVS will soon provide a soil selenium fertiliser initially used for supplementing pastures for ruminant health. Some of us may be taking supplements but in the long run lets fix our soils so we have selenium in our food all the time.


Harthill M. Review: Micronutrient Selenium Deficiency Influences Evolution of Some Viral Infectious Diseases. Biol Trace Elem Res 2011;143:1325–1336.

Lipinski, B. Can Selenite be an Ultimate Inhibitor of Ebola and Other Viral Infections? 6, 319–324 (2015).

Stoffaneller, R. & Morse, N. L. A review of dietary selenium intake and selenium status in Europe and the Middle East. Nutrients 7, 1494–1537 (2015).


Crisis and Testing Services; There are some complications in the fertiliser industry due to supply line disruptions. Most fertilisers come from other parts of the world, primarily Chinese processing factories. For the obvious reasons the system is being challenged, however local stocks are currently high and still available. Soil testing laboratories continue to operate at this time.

With potential for supply disruptions, some may ask, shouldn’t we rely more on local fertility sources and develop a closed system mentality to fertility. My Answer is a definite no, during the good times when services/fertilisers are available we should take advantage of these resources and prepare our soils for the times when we do not have access. A healthy soil full of nutrition can function well for several years without inputs taking as through difficult times. Why would we not take advantage of that?


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All the Best,

Ian Mot
Agronomist specialising in Soil Health and Nutrition

+61434 822 199 -


Published on 1/02/2020

New Release: Nutri-Dense Program

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