Helen Harris: I can't understand the huge jump in price of fertilisers
With the wintry weather, we have plenty of time to get our Nitrates Plan finished and soil samples out. We need to study them for the upcoming season to see what's needed where.
As we are taking fertility from the land, in the form of grain and straw, we are very aware that we also need to give back to the soil.
We have tried to increase the fertility year on year. According to the Department of Agriculture, our soil samples used to be valid for five years, now that is back to four, and the size of sample has reduced from eight to five hectares per sample.
Even with this as our guideline, we prefer to do more. How else are you going to see how the soil is changing? We soil sampled the whole farm last year, but to see what the pH is now and a quick overview, we take random samples across the farm to see what direction it is going.
In general, our pH is quite high, from about 6.6 to 7.8. This works well for tillage, and if we find that our pH is getting any higher, we will use Urea rather that CAN to help bring it down slightly.
It's much easier to bring up the pH with lime than bring it down. This year, we also have to include some of the fertiliser value of the chicken litter that we spread last year.
This could be a tricky one, as we had a drought during the summer and I wonder how much of the chicken litter was taken up and if it wasn't, will it be available this year? Have we lost it or is it there for this year's crop?
The winter barley is starting to go slightly yellow, although most of the crops have come through the winter looking remarkably well and thick. When should we go out this year with the fertiliser?