17 May 1996

Fertilise the approved way

A NEW fertiliser code of practice has been launched by Lincs-based Omex Agriculture which expects it to become an essential part of growers marketing armoury.

Designed to ensure all its contractors follow a set of approved procedures it should be especially welcome on farms growing crops for major retail outlets, according to managing director David Featherstone.

A growing proportion of high value crops for supermarkets receive nutrients as suspension fertilisers, and several big retailers now seek assurances on nutrient as well as crop protection inputs, he explains.

Among the codes requirements are:

lIn-field product checks before starting work. Samples should be taken from the first and last loads into the sprayer.

lUse of headland nozzle deflectors for environmental protection, to avoid waste and to ensure full rates are applied to the edge of the growing area.

lDaily routine checks on jets, spray patterns, foam markers and all spray lines. Adequate supplies of wash-down water and rhizomania disinfectant to be carried.

lWeekly routines including use of patternator, jet calibration, check on true spray pressure and inspection of headland nozzle deflectors. Contractors injecting suspension fertiliser must also calibrate their acre-meters by measuring row lengths, the code states. Other checks must include manifold pressure, output a knife, and wear on pump tubes, pipe connections and knives.

Although aimed primarily at suspension fertilisers, the code is equally relevant to clear, liquid types, says Omex.

Andy Eccles, the firms agronomist, acknowledges that the scheme is based on self-assessment. "We rely on our contractors who fill in weekly report sheets."

But a field staff member regularly monitors their activities and checks their records, he claims.

The code should help growers convince buyers that their produce has has been fertilised by contractors working to strict standards, he says.

lLaurie Taylor, secretary of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors, of which Omex is a corporate member, welcomes the new code.

The only current MAFF-recognised NAAC code is one covering application of vegetation control chemicals outside agriculture, he notes.

Mr Taylor believes the latest move could give the firm an edge in a very competitive market. &#42

Omex hopes its new code for using fertilisers will help growers when it comes to marketing their produce.