Sustainable farming solutions

Author: John Bass – Business Development Manager 


The agriculture sector is under increased scrutiny year on year to become more economically efficient, while increasing our environmental sustainability. We are all seeing the forthcoming changes in fertiliser allowances and slurry spreading restraints, and with this, it is more important now than ever before to dedicate time to our decision making on farm.

This begins with the basics of addressing soil issues and imbalances with lime and soil pH, closely followed by nutrient balances, crop rotation, cover cropping and grass reseeding in order to maximise crop and grass yield within the ever-increasing fertiliser and chemical constraints.


Legumes and Brassicas:

There has been a big increase in legume and brassica crops such as beans and oilseed rape within rotations in the last number of years as well as oats. The crops are not only a good option for spreading workloads, but they also act as a valuable contribution to soil health, fertility and condition.

Non-cereal crops are often looked upon as non-profitable crops, but this is often not the case. In fact, crop yields in the rotation following this break are enhanced due to improved soil fertility and reduced pest and disease burdens in the field. As our portfolio of chemicals is reducing dramatically, integrated pest management becomes more important year on year.


Brassica crop


Fertiliser Usage:

Fertiliser usage is also becoming increasingly important and more emphasis needs to go into soil sampling to increase the response we get from our fertiliser but also to reduce the risk of losses and keep our environmental impact down. As farmers, we can become more sustainable without cutting our inputs or production through these simple steps:


  • Addressing soil pH levels with a focus on calcium: magnesium ratios which greatly improves nutrient availability and uptake, especially nitrogen use efficiency within the plant.
  • Applying fertiliser at the right time to maximise uptake and meet growth demands.
  • Applying certain nutrients when needed such as Phosphorus (P) early in the season and Potassium (K) later in both grass and tillage systems.
  • Monitoring grass growth to plan fertiliser rotations rather than blanket spreading or following stock when not always warranted.
  • Availing of GPS systems in order to minimise wastage on overlaps and checking spread patterns to ensure even application.
  • This year, in some cases, it has been better value to spread Nitrogen (N) based compounds rather than straight N or Urea, while better grass growths have been aided by the little and often application of P and K.
  • Cover cropping to recycle nutrients and condition soil in order to maximise crop yields and reduce diesel consumption and wear and tear.
  • Maintaining buffer zones to avoid water contamination.
  • Using aids such as sulphur and seaweed additives in fertiliser such as SUPERCAN over straight CAN or going a step further and using one of the new products from the Target Fertilisers Terra Range. This aids nitrogen uptake and use efficiency, making it a valuable tool especially in grass systems where derogation is inhibiting N and P usage.

For more information, download the Target Fertilisers Terra Range.

Picture of Terra Range flyer











We are all aware of the looming changes to CAP and the impacts this may have on our SFP going forward. This is going to put increased pressure on the sector as a whole. If we as an industry can be more efficient now, it may increase our chances of fighting towards keeping our payments as we know them and prove that as a nation, we produce food more sustainably than most places in the world.


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tractor mowing grass silage

Maximising Grass and Silage Growth

Over the past number of weeks, we have experienced very little grass growth due to a 75mm soil moisture deficit. Growth rates in this area dropped to around 30kg DM/ha which led to a lot of animals receiving a buffer feed. Luckily, we have got a welcome dash of rain over the past few days which in the presence of available nutrients has brought growth levels back up to 90kg DM/ha. As we are all starting from low farm covers, we need to maximise growth to deal with the recent shortfall of grass production. First cut silage has also been affected by drought conditions with 25-30% reduction in yields being reported locally. The quality of this first cut silage should be very good and most crops were saved in great conditions.

Grazing ground

Nitrogen N

Paddocks that have received nitrogen in the past few weeks should take this up now. Fields that have not been spread for over 3 to 4 weeks should get nitrogen immediately. The increased growth after the rain should enable 2 units a day to be taken up.

Phosphorous P

P is a key driver of growth, root development, and grass tillering. Available P will help stressed plants recover and promote water and nutrient uptake. In addition, it will promote grass tiller development to help swards recover after the dry spell. Therefore, apply low to medium rates of P in your next fertiliser application. Low index soils will require larger amounts of P depending on when they last received it. Earlier spring applications of P in low index ground will need to be topped up at this stage as P is locked up in these soils.

Potassium K

K has a major role to play in the uptake and regulation of water within the plant. Now more than ever sufficient levels of soil available and applied K will be essential for the plants to withstand drought and aid rapid recovery. K at sufficient levels will keep good quality leaf in the grass and stop it from droughting out, pushing up a seed head and going to stem. Stem has one third less feed value to the cow as green leaf.

Sulphur S

Sulphur increases the efficiency of N uptake which is very important at this time of the year. Sulphur aids in plant protein production and therefore grass that has sulphur will remain higher in protein and retain feeding quality later into the season. Sulphur should be a part of all fertiliser applications. In most cases an application of a compound containing N P K S will be the best solution to get farm covers back up where they need to be. Take the full advantage of the growth while we have it to build up much needed reserves.

Silage ground

The present damp dull weather makes it ideal for slurry applications. Most slurry spread during the dry spell will have lost all its nitrogen content. It is important to know your offtake when it comes to spreading your second cut silage, with each tonne of dry matter removing 25 kg (20 units) of N, 4 kg (3 units) of P, 25 kg (20 units) of K and 4 kg (3 units) of S. In low index P we must add 10 kg (8 units) per index lower than 3 and in low index K 30 kg (24 units) per index lower than 3. In general, we are low in sulphur so as a rule of thumb it is best apply 15 to 20 units per acre for your second cut. A 3 tonne DM/ha crop on an index 3, 3 will take 75N 12P 75K and 12 to 15 S out of your soil.


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