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The fertiliser you order for and spread in 2024 should be driven by the nutrient allowances your farm has. In 2024, with the newly introduced fertiliser register, this will become more important than ever before. Your farms nutrient allowance can only be formulated with current soil samples and a farm nutrient management plan. A nutrient management plan will calculate the total kgs of N and P you can spread. You then need to distribute this N and P in the correct fashion across your paddocks, at the correct time of the year to meet your grasses needs.
• Don’t forget P and K Between 2021 and 2023 the proportion of our soils in index 1 for P has increased from 4% to 20%, with the proportions of soils in index 1 for K increasing from 3%
to 13%. All this is happening while our use of P and K fertilisers has dropped by c.40%. This is having a negative impact on the efficiency of the nitrogen you are spreading. We must build fertiliser plans and strategically use nutrients to correct this decline. Make the best use of slurry. Slurry can go alone way to meeting your farms P and K requirements, while supplying plenty N if used in the correct manner at the correct time. But be mindful of the nutrients your slurry supplies, its packed full of K. Your farm should get no more than 70units of K in the spring. 2000 gals of slurry to the acre will supply 60units. If slurry is used in the spring a straight N or an NP compound should follow not and 18-6-12 type fertiliser. You should strive to meet P allowance early. 2000 gals of slurry to the acre will supply 12 units of P. Depending on your indexes you may still need a shake of P. In this
scenario, use a product like greengrow P (25-4-0) to fill the gap. If you don’t spread slurry in the spring and open with a ½ a bag of protected urea and have:
– a P and K requirement, you should follow up with sweet 18s,
– a P and but no K requirement, you should follow up with green grow P,
– a no P and but K requirement, you should follow up with greengrow K or protected urea with K.
Let’s look at the nutrient requirements of your 1st cut. Its c.100units of N and c.90units of K. Again, being mindful that you should go over 70 units of K in the spring. But you want a fertiliser that where the N is 1.5 times the K. 27-2.5-10 does not meet this pattern and I would suggest you need to consider sweet 18s or and18-4-15 type product.
If your applying slurry to silage ground, then straight protected urea should meet its needs.
Don’t forget sulphur:
Sulphur also needs to be considered when making decisions for fertiliser for 2024. Sulphur is closely associated with Nitrogen efficiency and influences both the crude protein content and yield of both grass and silage. Sulphur on grazing ground is most important from April onwards but I would suggest that every tonne of fertiliser you buy in 2024, except the initial ½ bag of protected urea, should contain sulphur. The below sulphur targets should be considered when purchasing fertiliser for 2024 to meet grass sulphur requirements;
15 units S/acre in total across April to June on grazing ground
15 units S/acre on 1st cut silage ground
10 units S/acre on 2nd cut silage ground (Only
required on lighter soil types)
Be mindful though that storing sulphur for long periods of time can be risky as sulphur within the bag can make the fertiliser go hard. If buying fertiliser with sulphur before Christmas, only buy what you need for the start of the year and make sure it is stored safely and ideally indoors if possible.
• N fertiliser type
Protected urea should be the N fertiliser used in 2024 from a performance and sustainability perspective. In the past few years Protected urea has consistently cost less than CAN on a per kg of N basis. It is available in a number of formats such as straight 46%N, with sulphur 38:0:0:7 and as an N:K (29-0-14) and N:K:S compound 29:0:14+S.
Teagasc have trialled protected urea across three years (2019-2021) and five locations across the country. The trial consistently found no difference in grass growth between protected urea and CAN across the different years and sites. To further test out how protected urea compared to CAN individual pregrazing grass yields from rotations with dry weather conditions (five consecutive days experienced 0 mm rainfall, max temperature reached ≥ 18°C and a SMD occurred simultaneously) were compared. Again, no difference was found in pregrazing yields between protected urea (1,424 kg DM/ha) and CAN (1,433 kg DM/ha).
There was also no difference in grass nutritive value between the different fertilisers.
Remember that the protective coating on Protected urea has a shelf-life. Straight 46%N protected urea has a shelf-life from 12-18 months depending on the product you buy but protected urea with sulphurs shelf-life is closer to six months. This needs to be taken into consideration when planning your purchases.
New Science around fertiliser N.
Have a close look at page 27. The Terra Range of fertilisers by Target Fertilisers can reduces N on farm by up to 25%. It’s a new science to the market but it has some impressive on-farm results under its belt. Within our current environment we are all striving to grow the same amount of grass with less N, this technology ticks a lot of boxes. I think everyone should consider it.
The importance of soil biological health and how it partners with background soil N release is becoming more and more important every season. Physiolith is a soil microbial and root stimulant that kick starts that nitrogen release. We have a lot of suppliers now incorporating Physiolith into the fertiliser program in the spring with impressive N reduction results. Again
I think everyone should investigate its application to their farm and consider its potential to reduce their fertiliser N application in 2024.
Please contact your local Area Sales Manager to discuss what fertilisers you should be using in 2024.