The National Beef Association is urging farmers to save money, without undermining farm productivity, by soil sampling key silage meadows and grazing pastures before dressing them with fertilizer this spring.
It says that only around 15 per cent of fertilizer applications are backed by soil analysis which means that thousands of tones of phosphate costing around £600 a tonne, and potash, are wasted – especially if the land has been regularly dressed with slurry or manure.
“Over £1 billion is spent on fertiliser each year and costings show that it is still the biggest contributor to recent rises in farm management expense following dramatic price rises over 2008,” explained NBA director, Kim Haywood.
“Farmers who want to cut down on unnecessary expense, but at the same time protect their output, should invest in a number of strategically sited soil samples costing only around £10-£12 apiece, or up to £1.20 a hectare, because it could save them thousands of pounds.”
“All too often dressings of 20-10-10 are routinely applied, at say £350-£370 a tonne, without any effort to discover whether the phosphate or potash is needed and so huge sums of money can be needlessly spent”
And nitrogen can be wasted too if it is applied to fields with a low PH, worn out grasses, or a pan that is strangling root growth.
“The Association has been told at over the last ten years perhaps as much as 70 per cent of nitrogen fertilizer has, for a number of reasons, not been taken up by the crop,” said Ms Haywood.
“Up to date pH information is essential before nitrogen is applied and lime should be spread as a matter of urgency if the pH is low and grass will find it difficult, if not impossible, to take up nitrogen properly.”
“Total wastage from unnecessary applications of nitrogen and phosphate is estimated at around £400 million a year on a cross-UK basis and sensible farmers will react to this by making sure their soil is fully receptive to compound fertilizer and they are making full use of their slurry and hard manure too.”
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