Fertiliser use now an exact science
This is a fabulous time of year, when everything seems to be bursting into life. It's lovely to see newborn lambs skipping around the fields and the daffodils starting to come into bloom.
We have been flat out taking soil samples for Teagasc. I think I know every back road and boreen in Co Kildare.
It will soon come to an end as the next fine day will have half the country out spreading slurry or fertiliser. You can't take samples after that as it would give a false reading.
When we started this a few years ago, it was mostly for REPS plans. Then they brought in the rule that all tillage farmers had to test for organic matter and now it's required for nitrates plans too.
The attitude of farmers has also changed over the last three years. Most initially thought it was an unnecessary expense, but now more and more are getting samples taken for their own benefit. Given the high cost of fertiliser in today's market, they realise they need to know exactly what they have to use to maximise each crop.
Teagasc figures for this year on the costs of growing crops illustrate this point perfectly. Just to buy and spread fertiliser is slightly under €200/ac. That means if you are growing 500ac of crops your fertiliser bill alone will be about €100,000. That's before you have bought sprays or anything else.
So the days of guessing are long gone.
The merchants are on the same wavelength, with many having accredited labs. If you give your local rep the sample, most will send it off and have the results back in a couple of weeks. But make sure the lab they use is accredited. There is not much point in going to the trouble of taking soil samples if the Department of Agriculture won't accept the results.