The Fertilisation Situation

Last month the Conservation and Operations Teams, guided by our Research Ecologist, collaborated to undertake the fertilisation programme, which for this year meant spreading 180 tons of lime over ten experimental plains dispersed across the Reserve. The fertilisation programme has been running for several years now as part of experiments to improve the nutrient value of Welgevonden’s grass.

Grass requires a delicate balance of elements to grow; namely Phosphorous, Nitrates and Potassium. A deficit in either of these means that even with all the water and sunshine in the world the grass cannot thrive. Welgevonden sits on old farmlands which have been depleted of their nutrient value. By adding fertilizer to the soil, we reintroduce these nutrients to the system, providing the grass with everything it requires to grow. Each year the Team alternates the spreading of fertilizer, with the spreading of lime. In addition to being nutrient poor, Welgevonden soils are also acidic.

Most grasses prefer a soil pH between 5.8 – 7.2, and when the pH is within these preferred ranges it means that the nutrients are available for grasses to use. However, when the pH stays from these optimum levels the uptake of even plentiful nutrients is restricted. What the lime does is offset the acidity in the soil and improve the availability of these nutrients to the plants.

The spreading was quite tricky this year,” says Jonathan Swart our Research Ecologist, “With the lime being slightly wet I had to closely monitor the spreading rate and continually make adjustments. The soil was also waterlogged in some areas and these had to be avoided to prevent getting bogged down.

The lime spreading took just over two weeks to complete and went quite smoothly. There were no punctures or breakdowns and only about a day’s delay due to rain. It was an immense effort to get this done and required a team effort.

I am grateful though for the assistance I received, particularly from the Operations Team and some members of the Conservation Team who were together responsible for the smooth running of the operation – all their hard work was highly commendable and much appreciated.” Jonathan adds.

Finding novel ways to improve Welgevonden’s grazing value as part of the Plains Project is something that sets our Reserve apart. We look forward to seeing the impacts of these endeavours and learning from the process.



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