DEFRA is to undertake a comprehensive review of its guidelines for fertiliser use in a move welcomed by the whole industry. The revised version is due in early 2008.

An ADAS study had concluded that some technical revisions were needed to parts of the RB209 guidelines, which provide practical fertiliser recommendations on most field-grown crops.

In particular, application rates in wheat and some aspects of the soil nitrogen supply index had come under fire, said ADAS’s Peter Dampney.

The guidelines have also taken on new significance in the past year because of cross-compliance legislation.

“We welcome the chance to revisit and reinstate what RB209 really means and to clarify what rates should really be in the light of current farming techniques,” said NFU vice-president Paul Temple.

In the past, RB209 has been revised by ADAS. But DEFRA has now asked for a cross-institute collaboration between Rothamsted Research, IGER and HRI-Warwick to lead this review process.

“We should be sending an outline of how the review will run in the next few weeks and confirming it by the end of August,” Rothamsted soil scientist Keith Goulding said.

“We will be using all the new data that has come available,” he said.

That would include commercially-sensitive data which firms had previously been reluctant to share.

Farmers and technical experts would also have a chance to contribute.