Independent Whanganui fertiliser broker Robin Casey gave visiting Lincoln University agricultural students an alternative view to problem solving last week.
The students were on a tour of several farms with a soil scientist as tour leader.
"During their visit to the farm I was at they asked about fertiliser, so I was happy to talk to them about my field," Mr Casey said.
"The soil scientist, not surprisingly, regarded soil tests as one of his main tools, but for me herbage analysis is far more important. In fact, for me herbage analysis trumps soil tests any day. Soil tests produce handy information to have, but at the end of the day it's the herbage that's going down animals' throats."
The students were also lectured on Mr Casey's ability to employ a range of options to solve problems.
As an independent not solely aligned to company mantra, Mr Casey has the luxury of utilising the best of both worlds, liquid and solid fertilisers. He does, however, sway more toward seaweed-based liquid products.
Students listened keenly to the outcome of a debate he had had with one of his farmer clients.
"The farmer wanted to use traditional solid fertiliser to remedy a situation while I advocated a seaweed-based liquid remedy," Mr Casey said.
"We decided to split a paddock and trial both remedies. The farmer applied 22kg of nitrogen, 40kg of potassium and 24kg sulphur in March last year.
"I applied a seaweed-based mixture that included .9kg of nitrogen, .9kg phosphate and .5kg potassium. I based my calculations on gut feeling because I know this particular area very well.
"Herbage analysis was done on both our blocks on November 21 last year and mine revealed the imbalances had been rectified, while the farmer's had not. Subsequent soil tests did not match either herbage analyses, but that's not what's going down the animals' throats. I think I at least proved to the students, and hopefully the farmer, that there are others ways of solving the problem." ¦