Farmer Focus: Fertiliser input needs pose a challenge for Allan Chambers

Northern Ireland is a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone, so I spent last weekend trawling RB209, the nutrient management Bible, eventually computing on a spreadsheet all N, P, K and S requirements for any crops we’re likely to grow.

The next task was to equate these to the known soil analysis results of all our fields.

This showed a difference in phosphate needs between two adjacent ones of 70 kg/ha for wheat. Abiding by our Nitrates Directive rules I am confident that our current use of N, which we regard as optimum, is acceptable but we have a problem with phosphate.

We import reasonably priced organic manures as pig slurry and broiler litter. The N, P, K ratios of these are such that we will have to spread, for some crops, relatively low rates in order not to overdo phosphate applications.

What I really need is a computer programme to give me a lowest cost recommendation for a mixture of organic/straight inorganic fertilisers, to produce a target yield for each crop in fields of different fertilities.

A quote of £480/t for sulphate of potash is frightening.

In four weeks’ time winter barley results will be here to see. I’m not optimistic as confirmed take-all has hit a third of the area.

Straw, a valuable part of the crop here, should make last year’s price of £20 per 8ft x 4ft x 3ft bale ex-farm, but bales per hectare will be less.

Mistake of the month: Decided to spray the lawn daisies. Despite my having the requisite NRoSO points, the treatment didn’t quite work and I failed to convince “the one that matters” that it was a severe attack of brown rust. Even the promise of a choice meal out failed to restore home cooking to its former glories.

Never let a farmer loose on the lawn.

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