Boom time for liquid ferts firm
THE boom in liquid fertiliser sales has prompted Omex to open a new facility in Shropshire this spring -and the company forecasts a continuing rise in use.
Suspension fertiliser sales rose by 15% last year and solutions by 10%, says managing director David Featherstone. With significant benefits over solid fertilisers, he expects the trend to continue and even accelerate.
Precision application, specific nutrient content and the opportunity to use a contractor instead of tying a man and machine up at a busy time of year far outweigh the typical 3% price premium, he says.
"Blenders can do it cheaper, but the advantages of liquids, and suspensions in particular, are accuracy, reduced wheelings and tailored nutrient content to give exactly what the crop needs."
Suspension products account for 65% of Omexs 200,000t of sales, with 90% contractor applied. "Unlike a fertiliser solution you do need different nozzles and plumbing," says Mr Featherstone.
But application accuracy far outstrips solid fertilisers. "It is much more accurate in the field than even an SP5-rated solid product." That is a big bonus for row-crops where tight supermarket specifications apply.
The suspension process allows a wide range of extra nutrients, such as sulphur, boron and magnesium to be included. Omex typically produces over 600 different fertiliser specifications each year to suit grower needs. Magnesium is included in 70% of East Anglian applications, for example, and sulphur is being used to combat potato scab.
Other inputs can be added, including 15 herbicides with manufacturer support. That cuts spray passes and may boost efficacy, because the fertiliser salts help retain moisture, so enhancing chemical uptake.
Fewer wheelings, particularly where a 24m contract machine is used, are a further benefit. Headland cut-off is absolute, with half-nozzles on boom ends for first bouts.
A fleet of 35 contract sprayers offers guaranteed next day application for orders received by noon the day before. To combat foot-and-mouth, all sprayers are disinfected going onto and off farms and tankers get a disinfectant spray-down as they enter and leave Omex sites.
Although most product goes onto arable crops, Mr Featherstone sees good potential for grass. "Why tie a £25,000 a year herdsman up spinning on fertiliser when you could get a contractor in to do it?"
As retailers demand further cuts in pesticide use, crop nutrition is set to become still more important, Mr Featherstone believes. "We want to help growers use nutrition to grow stronger, healthier crops, which need less agrochemical."
The expansion of Omexs AgriFluids foliar nutrient business in 35 countries around the world testifies to that changing role of crop nutrition, he concludes. *
• 15%/yr rise in use.
• Accurate application.
• Flexible analysis.
• Contractor applied.
• 3% price premium.
Omexs Ternhill, Newport, site will supply 10,000t of product to farms from Lancs to Glos this spring. That is expected to rise to 60,000t in a few years, equivalent to 50,000ha (120,000 acres). Until now deliveries to the west have been from Omex plants at Kings Lynn, Norfolk and Bardney, Lincs.