Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

Plan your fertilizer requirements now

Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

It was a good week weather-wise so field work has progressed. Plenty of fodder beet and potatoes were harvested. Beet yields are good with average yields between 25-30t/ac. It is making an average price of €35/t loaded. This gives an excellent return for this particular crop this year. It is also good feeding value for winter feeders when compared with finished rations of more than €250/t or cereals at €200/t.

Beet sales are slow which proves that growers should try to have at least 80pc of their produce pre-sold. Sugar beet commands a €3/t premium.

Chemical fertilisers are likely to be expensive in spring next year (see table 1). Now is the time to plan forward and minimise your expenditure. Fertiliser input costs are the single biggest expense for tillage crops and varies between 35-50pc of total costs (€85-125/ac), depending on crop type and fertility index. However, there are significant savings to be made with the proper use of organic manures (see table 2).

Regarding pig slurry, it should be noted that the actual source is important. For example, pig slurry from fattening units is much higher in nitrogen and lower in phosphorous. Slurry from sows is very low in dry matter and consequently there are higher haulage and application costs.


It should also be noted that nitrogen from cattle and other livestock manure is deemed to be 40pc available, while farmyard manure is 30pc. Pig and poultry manure is deemed to be 50pc available. All phosphorous in these manures is deemed to be 100pc available.

Poultry manure has also become more available. Care should be exercised in taking this product onto the farm as there is a huge variation in the analysis of the various types (see table 3).

The amount of these products that can be used is greatly influenced by the analysis contained in the product.

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There is some comfort and opportunities arising from the new Nitrates Directive action programme. While this has not been signed off on by the Government yet, it is my understanding that these agreed provisions are now operable.

The continuation of the special allowances for pig and poultry manure under the 'transitional provisional arrangements' is excellent news for both industries and for the farmers using these products.

The only issue for these products is the 170kg N/ha limit. However, there is no phosphorous limit even if a phosphorous index 4 exists. This is particularly important for tillage farmers where phosphorous fertility readings between 10-15mg/l occur. It is my experience that crops in soils with these high index 4 phosphorous levels do not perform as well as crops even at index 3 levels, which are allowed 25kg P/ha.

The absence of a sliding scale for phosphorous fertility between 10-15mg/l leaves these soils at a disadvantage. These soils would benefit from the inclusion of pig or poultry manures. This is officially allowable until 2015.

Pat Minnock is president of the ACA and a member of ITCA. Email:

Irish Independent