Dairy and arable farmers are being advised to ensure that they place their spring fertiliser orders in good time to ensure they have got the necessary nutrients available for spring applications.
Drastic reductions in fertiliser applications on farms may have serious long term implications, and could prove extremely costly to rectify in future years.
A recent survey carried out by Wynnstay Arable in conjunction with GrowHow suggests that many farmers are intending to delay fertiliser purchases until February 2009 in the hope that prices will drop. “Traditionally, the bulk of grassland fertiliser sales and deliveries are made from November through to the end of March,” explains Ian Moseley, fertiliser manager for Wynnstay.
“Our customer survey indicates that this year, many farmers are going to delay until the last minute to place their orders as a result of cash-flow problems and because they believe that falling gas and oil prices will bring fertiliser prices down,” Mr Moseley continues. “But this is a dangerous strategy. With so many farmers likely to want to take delivery of their fertiliser in February, there simply isn’t going to be enough stock available. We are also likely to see long delivery delays due to increased pressure on transport facilities as orders rush in.”
As a result, those farmers that are left waiting for deliveries may miss vital weather windows during the spring, warns Mr Moseley.
The survey of Wynnstay customers also indicates that the quantity of fertiliser ordered will be reduced as well as delayed, with orders for fertiliser containing phosphate likely to be the worst hit. According to the survey, arable farmers are intending to reduce their total fertiliser inputs by 1-2% while grassland farmers are likely to reduce their orders by as much as 4-5% for potash and sulphur and up to 9% for phosphate. Some of this is related to an increase in soil testing whilst some will be as a knee-jerk reaction to price increases explains Mr Moseley. Nitrogen usage however, is likely to remain fairly stable as farmers recognise that N is the key driver to yield. “But they must also remember that P, K and S are also vitally important,” Mr Moseley adds.
“The price for granular urea has fallen quite significantly in recent weeks due to reduced demand in places like India and the United States. We have seen urea orders in the UK rising as a result and nitrogen inputs will therefore remain relatively constant. However, anyone intending to cut down on P, K and S inputs must accurately test their soil indices and take professional advice before making any major decisions,” Mr Moseley warns. “Failure to fully understand the nutrient status of your soil will have a big impact on future crop yields and could cost more money in the long run.”
Recent data published by NRM supports this claim, confirming that 32% of arable crops and 28% of grassland farms are currently at the target index for P, whilst 31% of arable land and 25% of grassland is currently at target indices for K. “Drastic reductions in fertiliser applications on these farms will have serious long term implications and could prove extremely costly to rectify in future years,” Mr Moseley adds.
“Balancing nutrient inputs with crop output has always been important. But with farmers facing increasing financial constraints even more emphasis must be put on choosing the best fertiliser programme. Wynnstay employs a team of 13 EnCompass qualified fieldsmen who can help farmers to make the right decision in terms of optimum fertiliser usage as well as how to make better use of their farm’s own supply of manures,” Mr Moseley concludes.
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