Farmer Focus: Tough decisions with fertiliser price so high

For the first time since 2019 we have completed the drilling campaign. We could have carried on drilling wheat – the conditions were with us – but we are now in this crazy situation where we are balancing cropping with nitrogen requirement.

With more luck than judgement I ordered eight loads of single-top early on at £280/t, which looks cheap now. This is roughly enough to feed 404ha (1,000 acres) of cereals and oilseed rape.

About the author

Doug Dear
Livestock Farmer Focus writer
Doug Dear farms 566ha (1,400 acres) of arable land growing wheat, spring and winter barley, maize and oilseed rape and runs a custom feedyard, contract-finishing about 2,400 cattle a year near Selby, North Yorkshire. Most cattle are finished over 90-120 days for nine deadweight outlets, as well as Selby and Thirsk markets.
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We then have 6,000t of farmyard manure, and “man-ure” (human biosolids) to work with. We know from experience that the available nitrogen in each of those means we can cut down the bagged fertiliser by 50% for the spring barley.

The maize will not get any di-ammonium phosphate. Instead, we will totally rely on organic muck.

See also: How maize silage analysis can reduce fertiliser spend

The nitrogen available in the muck for the wheat will be taken into consideration, as always, and will provide us with a good saving, not only in nitrogen, but phosphate and potassium, too.

This now brings into question the Farming Rules for Water, which curtail my use of a totally balanced, natural fertiliser.

In using muck, not only am I making a saving, but I am doing my bit towards helping us hit net zero by 2040, by reducing my reliance on the Haber-Bosch process (how synthetic fertiliser is made), which consumes 3-5% of the world’s natural gas production and 1-2% of the world’s energy supply. I’ll be hugging trees next.

Joking apart, the price of fertiliser is going to put some serious financial pressure on some farming businesses, and this is before the reduction in direct payments. I’m sure there are going to be some hard decisions to be made in the very near future.

Have you had the letter? The one asking you to be a truck driver?

Not only are we growing and marketing food, but we are also now being asked to transport the finished product to store.

I am unashamedly a Brexiteer, but I can only echo the words of East Yorkshire pig farmer Kate Morgan in that I voted for people to be more patriotic, the government to look after its own, and to limit immigration – not this shambles.

Isn’t it about time Boris Johnson showed some leadership?