10 May 1996

Lower-tech approach to new service

CHOICE of precision farming-based fertiliser systems continues to grow with the launch of a new service from East Anglian-based Sherriff Crop Care.

Multi-Fert will appeal to growers put off by precision farmings high-tech image and who baulk at investing in specialised equipment, says Chris Sutton, fertiliser development manager.

The company samples soils on a 100m (330ft) grid, using a four-wheel bike fitted with a global positioning system (GPS). Five samples are taken from each point, and combined. A record is taken of the point to allow repeat samplings in future years, he says.

Acidity, P, K and Mg values are produced for each point. After consultation with the farmer, a fertiliser programme is produced based in crop rotation, yield potential and in-field nutrient variation.

Although spreaders with GPS equipment allowing on-the-move adjustments can be used, such equipment is not necessary, Mr Sutton explains.

Instead, a range of straight and factory-blended fertilisers, which can be applied with existing farm machinery, are supplied to match the differing needs across the farm.

Difficult to blend

That is more accurate than trying to blend four or more different materials at once as some other companies do, he says. "Different products have different characteristics. Its very difficult to blend and spread them accurately."

Application can be made at different times of the season, or in different years depending on the amount of variation and to suit work load or crop need, says Mr Sutton. "For example, if a cereal field showed significant variation in residual phosphate, we might apply P in the autumn to low areas, and follow up with an overall NK or NPK dressing in the spring."

The programme is revised annually to take account of inputs and off-take. Samples will be repeated about every four years at precisely the same points to allow fine-tuning of inputs to achieve optimum soil indices.

Multi-Fert is available to all growers within Sherriff Crop Cares East Anglian trading area. Cost is £15/ha (£6/acre).