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Reducing the impacts of high fertiliser prices in 2022 on Tillage Farms


Fertiliser costs increased in early 2021 but in the last 6 months, prices have escalated to all-time highs. Fertiliser costs are one of the largest costs in cereal crop production so now is a good to plan to reduce price effects in 2022. Mark Plunkett Teagasc Tillage Specialist has worthwhile advice

Nitrogen has doubled in cost due to the limited supply and rising costs of natural gas. 

In planning to reduce price effects in 2022 the following are a number of steps to consider over the coming weeks:-

Soil Analysis

- The Teagasc soils database shows that ~ 31% of tillage soils are at P & K index 4. Identify these fields and make savings on P and K applications in 2022. Where soil results are > 4 years old re-sample fields over the coming weeks.

Lime & Soil pH

- Apply recommended lime rates based on recent soil analysis. This is the first step to increasing the availability of soil nutrients and increasing the utilisation of applied N, P & K as either organic or chemical fertilisers. 

Organic Manures

- Where organic manure supplies are available they will replace expensive fertilisers and are a cost effective source of N, P & K. To maximise the recovery of N from high N manures (pig & poultry) it is important to apply and incorporate within 3 to 6 hrs of application. Ideally, test manures in advance of application to know there nutrient values and adjust application rates to supply ~ 50% of the crops P & K requirements.  For example an application of 25mᶾ/ha of pig slurry (2,200gals/ac) can supply 52kg N, 20kg P & 50kg K/ha which is ~30% of N and ~50% of P & K requirements for a crop of spring barley.  Now is a good time to look at local sources of organic fertilisers and plan for spring crop utilisation. 

Straw Incorporation

- Straw contains approx. 10% and 50% of total crop P and K, respectively. For example the straw from a 10t/ha grain crop of winter wheat will return ~4kg P & 50kg K/ha. This offers significant savings of ~€80/ha in fields where straw was chopped. 

Beans & Peas

- Where N fixing crops are grown in a rotation the following crops N requirements are reduced as they fix atmospheric N thus increasing soil N supply. Cereals grown after legume crops have up 30kg N/ha lower N requirement reducing N costs by ~€75/ha. 

Urea v CAN

- Further savings can be made by selecting Urea (46% N) over CAN (27% N). At present urea is up to 20% cheaper than CAN. Save €20/ha on every 100kgN/ha applied. Urea can be more difficult to spread but with good particle size distribution, a good spreader and accurate setting of the spreader, good spreading can be achieved across a range of bout widths. Urea can also be subject to ammonia loss which is increased by increasing temperature and under drying conditions. 

Combine Drilling Phosphorus

– At sowing time, placing P fertiliser with seed will increase the efficiency of applied P. Research evaluating P fertiliser application methods for spring barley clearly shows the importance of delivering P fertiliser close to the germinating seed on low fertility soils (Index 1 & 2). 

Grow crops with lower N requirements

– Grow crops where possible with lower crop N requirements such as beans / peas, spring barley or spring oats depending on crop rotations and market requirements. 

Economic Optimum N rates

- With N fertilisers increasing three fold adjusting N rates will be required to maximise the return on investment. Contact your local advisor to discuss economic optimum rates for the soils and crops on your farm. 

Complete Farm Fertiliser Plan

– Contact your local advisor now to update your farm fertiliser plan to put in place a strategy for lime, organic fertilisers and fertiliser requirements for 2022.

Find out more information and advice from the Teagasc Crops team here. 
The Teagasc Crops Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to tillage farmers every Thursday on Teagasc Daily