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.
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.
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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