By FWi Staff

OVERALL nitrogen fertiliser use for Great Britain in 1996/97 has returned to a level similar to that recorded in 1994-95.

According to the 1997 British Survey of Fertiliser Practice published last week, nitrogen use over the past decade remains more than 10% below the peaks recorded in the mid 1980s. Phosphate and potash use has seen a slight fall but subsequent recovery in the past 10 years.

The survey, which is jointly sponsored by the Fertiliser Manufacturers Association, MAFF and the Scottish Office of Agriculture reported a number of changes in fertiliser use from the previous year. It was found that the overall application rate of total nitrogen rose by 4kg/ha and 8kg/ha on field crops and grassland respectively in Great Britain , following a general decrease of 3-4kg/ha in 1996.

Results also showed the rates of phosphate and potash had risen by 3-4kg/ha and 5-6kg/ha respectively for grassland and field crops. Use of sulphur-containing fertilisers continued to rise on cereal crops, but there was no change on oilseed rape or grassland.

The report found that the increased use of nitrogen on field crops was largely due to higher application rates on oilseed rape, sugar beet and cereals where an increased proportion was winter-sown. A larger area of grass was cut for silage in 1997, which could explain an overall increase in nitrogen use on grassland.

“Although nitrogen, phosphate and potash use all showed some increase in 1997, overall application rates of these nutrients have stayed relatively stable over the past five years,” said Tony Robinson, president of the Fertiliser Manufacturers Association.

“Since crop yields have continued to improve over this period, the results appear to demonstrate that, among other factors, farmers are using fertilisers more effectively. This is encouraging as it appears awareness of the need to match fertiliser usage to crop requirements is increasing which will benefit profitability and the environment.”