8 December 2000

Fertiliser use guide receives overhaul

A new version of MAFFs

Fertiliser Recommendations

for Agricultural and

Horticultural Crops (RB209)

booklet was launched

yesterday. Andrew Blake

reports

INDEPENDENT advice in the latest edition of RB209, often referred to as "the bible", will give growers more confidence in their use of fertilisers and put them in a "win-win" situation, says co-ordinating author Peter Dampney of ADAS Boxworth.

"It is all about maximising profits through good fertiliser practice and minimising potential nutrient pollution of the environment."

Based on nearly a decade of research since the previous edition, the booklet addresses three key environmental issues – nitrate in water, atmospheric contamination and excess phosphate which can lead to algal blooms and kill fish.

But its main aim remains that of increasing returns through the correct use of fertilisers and organic manures, says Mr Dampney.

The new booklet, which cost a total of £180,000 to produce and promote, is a big improvement on the 1994 edition, says MAFFs Susan Stokes. It is larger, has more background information on the principles of crop nutrition, soil sampling, fertiliser choice and application, and contains user checklists. "The aim was to make it more user-friendly," she says. "The old RB209 didnt even have an index."

"We are keen to help farmers understand what they are doing, not just give them sets of figures to follow," adds Mr Dampney.

The expansion recognises that good practice will be achieved only if all steps in the process are correct, he says. These include collecting field information (including soil sampling); deciding nutrient needs; assessing supply from organic manures; choosing rate, method & timing of inorganic fertiliser; selecting fertiliser type; applying accurately; and keeping good records.

The 175page, A4 booklet costs £15 plus £3 handling and will be promoted at a series of ADAS roadshows.

Sulphur need grows

Sulphur deficiency in grassland, oilseed rape and latterly cereals is an increasing problem acknowledged in RB209.

"The best way to tell whether you have a problem is through tissue sampling in one season, so you can correct it in the following crop," says Mr Dampney.

Manures and sludges revisited

New standard values for the annual £200m worth of nutrients in livestock manures and sludges are incorporated into the latest RB209. But growers are encouraged to use rapid on-farm analysis, with equipment such as the Quantofix and Agros meters, to get a precise measure of the potentially available nitrogen.

RB209 BOOKLET

&#8226 Based on decade of research.

&#8226 New SNS system for nitrogen.

&#8226 Revised phosphate & potash approach.

&#8226 New nutrient figures for manures.

MAFFs new booklet aims help farmers maximise crop returns and avoid damaging the environment. There is plenty of reasoning backing the recommendations in the latest edition of RB209, says Peter Dampney (inset).