ACA President Tom Canning.

Farmers urged to use fertiliser as efficiently as possible

SOIL Lime use will prove useful says ACA president

Improved use of lime is one way for farmers to lessen the inevitable pain of spiralling fertiliser costs, according to the president of the ACA.

“The uncertainties surrounding chemical fertilizers will focus farmers' attention on ensuring that whatever fertilizers are purchased are used as efficiently as possible,” said Tom Canning.

Mr Canning's comments come as fertiliser prices continue to spike. The Irish Farmers Journal recently reported that the best indicative price of CAN they could find was €600/t; which compared to €290/t in August of this year and €180/t in 2020.

“Given the massive price increases and likely shortage of chemical fertilisers for 2022, farmers need to be planning now on what actions they are to take to ensure they can maintain grass supplies for their stock during 2022.”

He recommends an accurate assessment of soil fertility if an up-to-date soil sample has not been done in the last three years.

“Co-ops such as Lakeland Dairies offer a subsidised soil sampling programme for their milk suppliers. Dairy farmers should contact their co-op advisor to book their place in the programme as soon as possible.”

The Killykeen farm advisor explains that soil samples should be used to prepare a nutrient management plan and determine the correct fertiliser use and lime needs to address low PH.

“Lime is key to ensure efficient uptake of available nutrients in the soil by growing crop. Lime improves the availability of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, calcium and magnesium. While lime use on Irish farms has increased in recent years, 60% of Irish soils are still deficient in lime. Getting the pH right in soils can release up to 80kg/ha of nitrogen (equivalent of 2.5 bags per acre of 27% nitrogen). A €1 investment in lime has proven to return €7 in additional grass.”

He notes that slurry has been regarded as “a waste product” by farmers for far too long.

“Animal slurries, if managed properly can replace chemical fertilizers, through correct timing of applications; the applications of slurry when growing conditions are suitable; the use of slurry additives to improve the uptake of nutrients contained in the slurries by growing crops; and low emission slurry systems which improve the nutrient uptake by growing crops and significantly reduce emissions of ammonia and methane.”

He also suggests reducing stocking rates by disposal of surplus stock, or considering options such as contract rearing of replacement dairy stock, which would also help to reduce pressures on labour and slurry storage.

Finally he advises farmers to improve grassland management by using tools such as grass measuring and budgeting.

“In the age of an environmental crisis efficient use of chemical fertilizers can prove worthwhile in reducing emissions and protection of water quality,” concludes Tom.