The challenges that farming keeps throwing up are what make it a most satisfying job. My latest one is how to use free organic manures to grow profitable crops and yet comply with the Northern Ireland Nitrates Directives.
I find soil fertility and its maintenance a fascinating subject and have records of phosphate and potash levels on all our fields over 25 years. The rates “artificial” applied each year have also been noted.
The long term picture is that phosphate indices are steady at 2-3 and potash levels are 1-2 and falling slightly.
Consulting RB209 shows that we need only apply 2.5t/ha of broiler litter to provide sufficient phosphate for spring barley and top up with bagged nitrogen and potash to achieve our normal rate.
The problem has been getting an accurate spread at such a low dose. But after several weighings and running behind the manure spreader I think we have cracked it.
The same calculations were done for pig manure on grassland, giving it the required application of 30cu m/ha and then topping up with 60kg/ha of 27.5% CAN.
At today’s horrific fertiliser prices the saving averages £80/ha, less the cost of storage and application. It’s well worth it.
We finished drilling our 24ha (59 acres) of Waggon spring barley following Italian ryegrass on 20 February. Ground conditions were perfect and this has been our earliest ever start and finish.
Wheat crops look good, but Retriever winter barley is suffering from manganese deficiency, mildew and rhynchosporium – all severe infections, making it look sick.
However, plant numbers are good and I am confident that we can get the crop into shape shortly.
Mistake of the month: Ran too close behind the broiler litter spreader and got coated. Packed lunch was left in the bag that day.