29 January 1999

Suspension ferts go westward…

Suspension fertilisers will

become more widely

available this year, as

supplier Omex moves west.

John Tearle finds out how

growers could benefit

SUSPENSION fertilisers are moving west, giving more growers the chance to benefit from the greater accuracy, flexibility and traceability users already enjoy in the east.

Unlike solution fertilisers, suspensions are much more concentrated, so are easier to transport and handle, say enthusiasts. They contain a gelling agent which suspends the solid nutrients in a homogenous gel that liquefies when it is stirred or pumped, making it easier to provide a range of nutrient analyses.

"Suspension fertilisers are not new, theyve been used in the eastern counties for 20 years. But until now they have not been widely available in the west," says Rob Evans of Oswestry, one of five contractors appointed by Omex Agriculture ahead of a planned £1m investment in a new factory in Shropshire.

Specialist equipment is needed to apply suspensions, making application a contractor operation, notes Mr Evans, who has just spent over £25,000 on an adapted second hand Unimog-based sprayer.

"Suspension fertilisers are 30-70% heavier than water, which means there is little or no drift during application. But we have had to fit specially strengthened 24m booms to take the weight and large diameter plumbing."

RDS metering and tungsten hardened flood jets, each with an isolator for headlands ensure an accurate application rate over the whole field.

"Suspensions can be applied much more accurately than any solid fertiliser. There is no separation of the mix in transit and they can be accurately and evenly spread right to the edge of the field, with no wastage into the hedge," he says.

Omex contractor Terry Thomas, of Richards Castle near Ludlow, believes he can now offer potato-growing clients a new level of flexibility in fertiliser choice.

"Suspension fertilisers are a step forward for this part of the country. Like solution fertilisers, every drop of the suspension contains the complete analysis. But unlike solutions, suspension fertilisers can be tailor made to an infinite number of nutrient specifications, including trace elements."

That means fields do not need blocking together to keep the number of fertiliser products to a minimum – provided the tanker can deliver at least 6t of any one mix.

Rob Hughes of Telford-based Wrekin Farmers likes the traceability offered by Omex. "There are checks and quality controls at all stages of production, supply and application.

"With solid blended fertilisers it is almost impossible to take a representative sample for analysis, as there is no recognised way of test sampling accurately. With suspension fertilisers all you need is 200ml for a complete composite sample. Each field is then logged for application by the contractor on his spray record sheet.

"This sort of traceability goes hand in hand with potato, cereal and other produce assurance schemes."

A strict code of practice for Omex contractors ensures fertiliser is applied accurately to the correct field, adds Michael Rowland of Omex distributor and contractor Spunhill Farm Sales at Ellesmere.

Details of product specification are given on the delivery note and applications are detailed by field and included with the invoice for traceability.

SUSPENSION BENEFITS

* Greater application accuracy.

* Reduced drift.

* More scope to tailor nutrient content to need.

* Good traceability.

* Increased availability.

SUSPENSION BENEFITS

&#8226 Greater application accuracy.

&#8226 Reduced drift.

&#8226 More scope to tailor nutrient content to need.

&#8226 Good traceability.

&#8226 Increased availability.