Fertiliser prices remain firm despite summer lull

Following last year’s unusually active August, the UK and European nitrogen market has reverted to form over the holiday and harvest period and is exceptionally lethargic, writes Farmers Weekly commentator Roger Chesher.

The wider global market remains firm, however, buoying up nitrogen prices at their present level.

Although there are few takers for ammonium nitrate at £347/t for September, some farmers are considering purchases to offset tax.

Offtakes of PK for seed-bed fertiliser are steady at or around £385/t, this slightly elevated price being a consequence of phosphate costs firming. Triple Super Phosphate is now £450/t, with potash steady at £360/t.

Recent trends towards applying phosphate and potash in the spring as an alternative to traditional seed-bed fertilising have lengthened the duration of the PK market. There are agronomic arguments for application either way, but the important thing is to make sure that it is applied and not forgotten.

The temptation to continually take PK holidays has gone too far, according to Stewart Allison of Frontier, who is beginning to firm up on currently anecdotal evidence that continual attention to soil structure and nutrient status is bringing regular gains in yield.

This year has seen wheat yields of 12t/ha and oilseed at 6t/ha when planted early on such soils, a record in some areas.

The grass market is steady, with interest in aftercut and grazing compounds, but this will come to an end soon. The trigger for this market is, as always, rain.

Assuming price stability continues, the next major tranche of business will come in the late autumn/pre-Christmas market.

But in this volatile industry nothing can be taken for granted and it pays to keep a regular weather eye on prices.

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