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Farmers are reducing fertiliser N use

Farmers are reducing fertiliser N use

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) have just released their Fertiliser Sales data for the first three quarters of the current year. Here Seamus Kearney and Tom O'Dwyer from the Signpost programme examine the data

Fertiliser sales data is recorded for the 12 month period 1st October to 30th September, so this report covers the first three quarters of the fertiliser sales year from 1st October 2021 to 30th June 2022.

Yearly comparisons

When comparing fertiliser sales for 1st October 2021 to 30th June 2022 to the previous year, 1st October 2020 to 30th June 2021 the report highlights:

  • a 19% decline in total chemical Nitrogen (N) fertiliser sales;
  • a 31% decline in total chemical Phosphorus (P) fertiliser sales;
  • a 30% decline in total chemical Potassium (K) fertiliser sales;
  • a 47% increase in the usage of Protected Urea as a source of fertiliser N; and
  • that Protected Urea sales now makes up 16% of straight Nitrogen (N) sales.

These results, if also recorded at the end of the 12 month period, will have an impact on GHG emissions from agriculture.  Two of the biggest levers available to Irish farmers to reduce GHG emissions are:

  1. to reduce fertiliser Nitrogen (N) use and
  2. to use protected urea as a source of any fertiliser N applied.

Table 1 shows that fertiliser N sales have reduced by almost 19%, with fertiliser P and K sales down by 31% and 30% respectively.

Table 1: Tonnage of fertiliser N, P and K for Q1, Q2 and Q3 2021/22 and change versus previous year

NutrientNutrient Tonnes  -Q1+Q2+Q3 2021/22% change v previous year
N 274,935 -18.9%
P 27,980 -31.4%
K 76,684 -29.9%

Table 2 shows that of the straight fertiliser N sales, excluding N in compounds, 45% was as either urea or protected urea. This is from 34% in the previous year. Previous Teagasc research has shown that both urea and protected urea have lower GHG emissions compared to CAN, although only protected urea has lower ammonia emissions. Of interest also is the 47% increase in the sales of protected urea. 

Table 2: Sales of fertiliser N (as straight N) for Q1, Q2 and Q3 and change versus previous year

 Nutrient Tonnes - Q1+Q2+Q3 2021/22Nutrient Tonnes - Q1+Q2+Q3 2020/21
Total N - straights 155,863 166,300
Protected urea 25,189 - 16% 17,172 - 10%
Urea 45,034 - 29% 40,453 - 24%

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