Should farmers apply fertiliser according to when their daffodils are in flower?Utilising a 'farmer-science' approach to understanding the impact of soil temperature on spring N fertiliser application in Wales

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-176
Number of pages8
JournalSoil Use and Management
Volume35
Issue number1
Early online date12 Apr 2019
DOI
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2019
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Abstract

Perennial ryegrass starts growing when soil temperatures reach 5.5°C for five consecutive days; applying N fertiliser before this risks environmental losses. To test whether daffodil flowering signified when to apply N fertiliser, farmers volunteered to take part in a citizen‐science study. The PROSOIL project used a ‘citizen science’, participatory approach to create farmer‐informed science, aiming to increase awareness of the importance of soil health. In 2014, over 300 farmers completed a “How do you manage your soil” survey. The survey included a question on the use of daffodils (Narcissus spp) to indicate the best time to apply the first nitrogen fertiliser of the season, based on anecdotal feedback from farmers involved in the PROSOIL project. The survey recorded 7% of farmers based their first fertiliser application on when daffodils flowered. To increase farmer awareness of soil temperatures, we provided them with soil thermometers, held workshops and hosted interactive stands at agricultural events in 2014. In autumn 2014, farmers planted daffodil bulbs of the same variety, across Wales, and monitored soil temperatures. Farmers returned postcards once their daffodils were in flower, noting the soil temperature. An assessment of whether daffodil flowering date could indicate when to apply N fertiliser was made. Overall, in spring 2015, daffodils flowered when soil temperature was 6.4(±0.35)°C, suggesting daffodil flowering date is a more reliable indicator for fertiliser application, than first hypothesised. Findings show a scientific validation of local knowledge, regarding the use of daffodils to indicate the “not‐before” date for the first N fertiliser application

Keywords

  • soil temperature, seasonality, nitrogen fertilisers, citizen science, daffodils, The PROSOIL project