With fertiliser prices at an all-time high, members need to make the most of every tonne to get the optimum return from their investment.
Local Origin Fertilisers has worked with the Farmer Network to produce some simple advice to help you navigate the conundrum:
- Only buy fertiliser that your crop and soil needs:
A relatively small investment in a Broad Spectrum Soil analysis will give you much more than your phosphate, potassium and magnesium indices and very topical at the moment, Organic Matter. Liebig's law of the minimum states that yield is proportional to the amount of the most limiting nutrient, whichever nutrient it may be. For example, adequate volumes of nutrients may be available, but if something like Sulphur was deficient, the crop will only perform to that deficient level, i.e. reduced yield and impaired quality, grass, barley, maize etc.
- Focus on nutrition not nitrogen:
Grass is well recognised as the most economical source of feed. Applying straight nitrogen will help deliver grass yield, but adding sulphur and sodium to your fertiliser will improve protein and palatability for the animal. A soil sample confirms the requirements of these secondary nutrients.
- As a minimum, add sulphur to your fertiliser:
Sulphur helps plants use nitrogen more effectively and can significantly improve nitrogen efficiency. Milk, meat and wool all have a high protein content and sulphur is heavily involved in the formation of protein. It is a constituent of several organic nutrients required by ruminants which are essential for rumen microbial synthesis.
- Seek advice:
For some crops, a reduction in nitrogen application is being advised in line with RB209’s economic optimum. Taking advice from a FACTS qualified advisor could save you money as they may recommend reducing your application, or a prescription fertiliser that only includes nutrient that your crop needs.
- If you have not already taken delivery, order what you need for your first dressing:
UK and European nitrogen producers have reduced or turned off production facilities since September after record gas cost increases. Coupled with strong global demand for all fertilisers, plus spiralling shipping costs, the whole fertiliser supply chain has been under considerable strain resulting in escalated costs. Potential geopolitical issues and with the gas prices 4 times higher than this time last year do not suggest any change in the short term.
- Take delivery of your fertiliser as soon as you can:
The Road Haulage Association estimates that there is a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified drivers in the UK. The lead time between order and delivery is likely to be longer than normal this year, so make sure you have your fertiliser on farm in case it is an early spring.
- Calibrate your fertiliser spreader:
To meet the needs of British farmers, imports of fertiliser this year have come from a wider range of manufacturers than normal. This could lead to increased variability in granule colour, size, density and crush strength. Advice from Origin Fertilisers is to check and calibrate your spreader for each delivery, especially if deliveries span several weeks as the same analysis could be made with raw materials from a range of suppliers.