12 May 2000

How savings score for eastern region finalist

Judging in the Nitram Award 2000 competition run by Terra

Nitrogen with support from Dalgety Arable, FARMERS

WEEKLY and the NFU ended recently. Andrew Swallow

reports on the eastern region finalist

COST cutting without jeopardising long-term yield or wheat milling premiums drives fertiliser policy for Jim Powell.

"We have to protect our premiums," says Mr Powell, farm manager at Maplestead Hall Farm, Halstead, Essex. UK-produced SP5 rated nitrogen is used on all crops.

If we lose premiums through poor spreading we lose far more than we could save with imported area."

Instead, savings of over £20/ha/yr (£8/acre/yr) have been made across the 240ha (600 acres) farm by fine-tuning applications and using Fibrophos as base fertiliser.

That policy has evolved over three years.

"Before I arrived everything used to get five bags of Nitram, or six if they were aiming for a premium, and three bags of 0:24:24 in the autumn."

The 0:24:14 analysis of Fibrophos more closely matches the wheat/oilseed rape rotation off-take, and includes some sulphur, magnesium and trace elements, he adds.

Soil-testing shows all P and K indices at two or above, so dressings are necessary only every other year, and contractor application cuts cost and passes.

"They can apply nutrients for far less on stubble than I could in-crop and it means I can manipulate the nitrogen a lot more easily."

Nitrogen is geared to hit grain protein targets at expected yields. Although output is being pushed, N use is less now than three years ago, despite a switch to an all-milling wheat regime.

Second and third wheats, Hereward or Malacca this year, will get a total of 215kg/ha (172 units/acre) of nitrogen, split into four applications from late Feb to final protein-boosting flag leaf application.

First wheat Rialto will receive less, at 175kg/ha (140 units/acre), split three ways including a late protein targeted top-up. Mr Powell uses Hydros Precision N Plan program to cross-check his calculations. "They are surprisingly close," he comments.

Multiple sources of information are used to build up his fertiliser strategy and he recently passed his FACTS exam.

"I can convince anybody that I need to that I am justified in what I am doing. You have to be able to do that," he stresses.

Soil nitrogen is not tested, but ADAS and ARC reference test-site results, plus articles in FARMERS WEEKLY and Crops magazine give him a good idea what will be available from the chalky boulder clay, he maintains.

TUNEDAPPROACH

&#8226 Yields up, fertiliser costs down.

&#8226 SP5 quality N guards premiums.

&#8226 Soil sampling every 3 yrs.

&#8226 FACTS qualified = "justified".

Contractor application of P and K has cut wear on the Lely Centreliners vanes dramatically, says Jim Powell. Tray tests are done to check spread patterns.