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Fertiliser for Growth in Grassland Farming Systems

Promoting good soil fertility management for increased grass production and profitability on grassland farms was the focus of the Teagasc Soil Fertility Conference, which took place in Clonmel, today, Friday 16 October. Hundreds of grassland farmers and the fertiliser industry representatives attended the conference. The new Teagasc NMP-Online, a farm nutrient management planning system, and the Fertiliser Association of Ireland (FAI) Technical Bulletin Series on soil fertility, were launched at the event.

Speaking at the launch, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine Tom Hayes TD, said: “This conference, which is part of the Teagasc national soil fertility campaign, will help farmers to maximise production and profits on their farms through the efficient use of fertilisers, driving output but in a sustainable manner. This is a key ambition of our FoodWise 2025 Strategy launched earlier this year”.

At the conference, President of the Fertiliser Association of Ireland, Paddy Casey outlined the industry contribution to promoting good soil fertility and said: “The launching of our Technical Bulletin Series today demonstrates the ongoing commitment of The Fertiliser Association of Ireland to promote the efficient use of fertiliser to produce quality food in an economical and environmentally sustainable manner. The bulletin reinforces importance of soil sampling as a key first step in soil fertility management. This is the first in a series aimed towards increasing awareness across the industry with best practice for soil fertility management and nutrient use."

Launching Teagasc NMP-Online, Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle said: “NMP-Online, which has been developed by Teagasc, provides the capacity to do high quality nutrient management planning, which meets statutory requirements and effectively gets the message across to farmers through the map based outputs. By linking to external data sets the process of preparing nutrient plans has been made as efficient as possible. Access to the system will be open to all agri-professionals and will be supported by Teagasc. It is a key tool in the ongoing campaign to improve soil fertility and fertiliser efficiency.”

Soil sample results for soils analysed at Teagasc show that 90% of samples have sub optimal levels of one of the principle soil nutrients Lime, Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). Mark Plunkett, Teagasc Soil and Plant Nutrition Specialist said: “This is a serious limitation to the production potential of our soils and limits our ability to maximise our most competitive advantage in the market place which is our ability to grow high yields of quality grass.”

According to Dr David Wall, leader of the Teagasc Soil Fertility Research Programme at Johnstown Castle: “The first principle in fertiliser planning is controlling soil acidity through liming soils on a regular basis. Soil test results indicated that up to 65% of our soils require lime on a regular basis to maintain a soil pH 6.3 for grassland. Lime is a cost effective soil conditioner and in effect is a fertiliser as it is required to unlock major soil nutrients.”

Speaking about the Teagasc NMP online system, Pat Murphy, Head of Environment Knowledge Transfer at Teagasc said: ”The challenge facing the industry is to improve soil fertility while at the same time achieving environmental objectives. This can only be achieved by improving nutrient management planning at farm level. Farmers need a good understanding of the principles of soil fertility management and a clear plan for its implementation. NMP online is a first step to achieving this.”