Published 9th May 2016
Pasture and Soil

A very informative article by Mark Kopecky from OnPasture.Com led us into rethinking how Hustler can continue making farming life easy and convenient while still taking care of your pasture’s soil.

Read below and be educated.


How Much Phosphorus Do We Want in Our Soils?  

Phosphorus is one of 17 chemical elements that all plants need, and it’s one of the nutrients that we sometimes need to add to soils in fairly high quantities. Phosphorus levels in soils depend on the ancestry of the soil and how it’s been managed during its farming history. 

Phosphorus availability in soils is very strongly associated with pH. At low pHs, phosphorus tends to bind up with iron and aluminum in soils and becomes unavailable to plants. At high pHs, phosphorus can bind to calcium and magnesium and that also decreases it’s availability. Acidic soils bind up phosphorus worse than alkaline soils do. 

Phosphorus is most readily available to plants at pHs of at least 6.5. If the soil pH drops below 6.0, phosphorus becomes very unavailable. Applying lime to very acidic soils is always a good idea, and one of the benefits of that is to help phosphorus become more available even without adding it as a supplement. 

If we identify a phosphorus deficiency in soils, there are several things we can do to correct that. The most common sources of phosphorus for organic cropping systems are manure and rock phosphates. For farms that have a livestock or poultry enterprise, the manure these animals produce should be the first place we look when we need to add phosphorus to soils. If we don’t have enough of a supply of manure to meet the phosphorus we need, or if we need only phosphorus and not the potassium that also comes with manure, we can use rock phosphates. There are different sources and forms of rock phosphate, but they share the characteristics of being fairly slow to dissolve in soils. Another technique that can work well is to mix the rock phosphate into manure by applying it to bedded packs, in gutters, or mixing it into manure or compost piles. The phosphate part of the fertilizer also binds with ammonium in manure to help keep it from evaporating, and that means more nitrogen from the manure will actually make it back to the land. 

Manure is a great source of phosphorus, but we often focus on manure as a nitrogen source for crops like corn. If we use manure as the only source of nitrogen for growing corn, we will continue to raise phosphorus levels over time because manure provides nutrients at different proportions than what crops need to grow. This can be helpful for soils that are low in phosphorus, but if we already have high phosphorus levels it can eventually cause problems. 

When we have soils with very high phosphorus levels, runoff waters can carry significant amounts of phosphorus to surface waters. This elevated phosphorus level in the water makes its way to rivers, lakes, and eventually the ocean, where it causes an explosive growth of algae. These algae eventually die and decompose, which depletes the oxygen level in the water, causing the “dead zones”. 

As phosphorus levels in soils continue to rise to extremely high concentrations, the soil gets to a point where it just can’t hold any more and the phosphorus begins to leach out of the profile and end up in groundwater. This can cause problems in well water, and where groundwater seeps into surface waters, it can cause problems in lakes, rivers, and the ocean just like surface runoff. 

Because of the potential for environmental problems like these, nutrient management planning regulations often focus on phosphorus levels in soils. This is good for all of us to keep in mind, but it’s especially important for farmers who have livestock and need to spread manure. When soil test phosphorus levels reach a threshold for the area where you farm, you might be prohibited from being able to apply manure to that field. We should aim for phosphorus levels that give good crop yields and still allow us some flexibility with where we can apply manure if we need to.


With this knowledge, it is important that farmers become more responsible with maintaining their farms’ ground. It is relevant to take soil health and Phosphorus levels into consideration as they have a wider-scaled environmental impact. 

The Hustler Bale feeding system can address this concern while still remaining simpler and faster. Bales can be fed spread out enough for a complete herd within two to three minutes for each bale. Hence, there is more flexibility in choosing feeding grounds (with bigger coverage area too), making it less susceptiple to high Phosphorus concentration. 

In addition, farmers would not need to repair pasture and clean up mud and manure, if they feed in a different spot every day. How convenient! Feeding in a new bit of ground every day through the Hustler system assures the cattle manure being spread more evenly around the pasture. This certainly reduces the risk of high Phosphorus concentration in an area and reduces health risks for the cattle while dramatically cutting down labor time. 

Ranchers can strategically plan out the feeding requirements in different areas everytime and he can monitor and define how much feed will be distributed. Thus, only enough for the day is fed, providing a consistent daily nutrition while reducing wastage and eliminating the environmental risks we have associated with Phosphorus levels. As such, your entire farm will acquire a balanced soil health and your livestock will remain healthy too! It’s a win-win situation once again with Hustler!


Get your own Balefeeeder, have a healthy soil, and help save the enivornment now!