9 June 1995

Accurate soil sampling saves cash on fertiliser

RISING fertiliser prices could help farmers justify the cost of a new approach to applications. Triple super phosphate and muriate of potash will typically cost 10% more this autumn, the highest level for five years, the fertiliser trade suggests.

With TSP at about £140/t and MoP £120/t the price rises could prompt a wider look at alternative fertiliser policies, suggests Stewart Parrington, managing director of agricultural merchant Banks Doltons, of Newbury, Berks.

He urges soil checks. Where P and K levels exceed ADAS index 2 there is scope for cuts. The more precise the sampling, the more scope there is to save money. Satellite-controlled sampling systems, such as that offered by Hants-based SOYL, have highlighted "massive differences" in nutrient levels within fields, he points out.

SOYLs managing director Mark Glyde believes such information can save farmers money. "SOYL is precision farming at its best. We can fine-tune fertiliser recommendations by translating soil nutrient status into amounts of fertiliser needed. Then the precise requirement for each part of a field can be applied, using a variable-rate applicator."

In future the software could include soil type, pH and, ultimately, yield maps. "Just think how precise fertiliser recommendations can be then," comments Mr Glyde. &#42