Lime sales surge as farmers make most of mild conditions
A massive surge in lime sales has been reported since October as farmers have taken advantage of the mild autumn and winter to get product spread.
The sharp lift in sales has continued into 2019, with industry sources claiming that the tonnage of lime moved has increased by five-fold to seven-fold over the last two months compared to the same period in 2018.
Much of the increased sales is the result of the difficult weather conditions in 2017 and 2018 which prevented lime spreading.
The constant rain through the back-end of 2017 and early 2018, followed by the drought last summer and the extended grazing season meant that many farmers had not had the opportunity to spread lime for almost a year.
However, lime sales have exploded over the last five months. Close to 250,000 tonnes of product was sold in October, with usage through November and December up around 50pc.
Lime sales are expected to top one million tonnes for 2018, the first time since 2013 that sales have hit this level.
Mark Plunkett of Teagasc said that the increased usage of lime since 2015 has been reflected in improved soil pH levels.
While Teagasc studies found that just 10pc of soil samples analysed between 2013 and 2015 showed good overall fertility in terms of pH, >6.3 for mineral soils and >5.5 for peat soils, and P and K status at index 3, these results have improved significantly over the last three years.
Mr Plunkett pointed out that 61pc of dairy farms had soils at the optimum pH in 2018, compared to 36pc in 2015, while the figures for drystock farms improved from 32pc to 48pc in the same period.
Teagasc research shows that where soil pH was lifted from pH 5.5 to 6.3, grass production increased by at least an extra 1.0 tonne DM/ha annually.
This increased grass production from lime is worth a €105/ha/year on a drystock farm, and €181/ha/year on a dairy holding. The cost of lime is in the region of €25-€28/tonne loaded and spread.
Efforts to reduce nitrate losses on intensive dairy and drystock farms is also driving increased lime sales.
Senior officials at the Department of Agriculture confirmed recently that reducing fertiliser and feed usage on holdings will be a central plank in this initiative.
Spreading additional lime to correct soil pH levels, so that fertilisers are used more efficiently, is a key element in the package of proposed measures, the Department indicated.
Meanwhile, temperatures are forecast to hit 16°C this week but more unsettled weather is predicted from this weekend.
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