PLANNING INPUTS IS GOOD POLICY
FERTILISER remains an essential and cost-effective input. But it will become increasingly important to plan programmes carefully. That is the view of Tony Robinson, chairman of fertiliser manufacturer Hydro Agri (UK).
Recent figures from the European Fertiliser Manufactu-rers Association suggest that fertilisers account for just 12% of farm input costs, yet produce 40-60% of total yield. That makes unplanned or panic cuts in fertiliser use "foolish".
Instead farmers need to plan carefully to ensure agriculture continues to function efficiently, without damaging the environment.
"At Hydro Agri we are redefining our marketing approach," explains Mr Robinson. "Rather than asking how much we can sell a farmer, we now consider how little he needs to achieve efficient production. While we will probably end up selling less fertiliser, we realise that if our customers have a secure future, so do we.
"We are also re-doubling our research efforts, which now concentrate on helping farmers use our products more efficiently, and on providing them with information to help them farm in environmentally sound ways." The first results of such work will be displayed at Cereals 95.
This includes new versions of Extran Plan and Nuram Plan, the companys computer-based granular and liquid nitrogen planning services which help farmers determine optimum rates and timings of N. Both plans now cover a range of arable crops.
Hydro Plan will also be on show. It is a computer based programme for calculating the optimum nutrient balance on a field-by-field/crop-by-crop basis.
"Fertiliser is the balancing factor between the crops nutritional needs and what it can obtain from natural sources. These needs are affected by a range of factors which vary from field to field. Hydro Plan helps calculate the optimum balance in any given situation."
Other innovations include the N-Tester for relating chlorophyll content to nitrogen needs and a new soil sampler.