While fertiliser sales in Ireland have steadily increased over the last decade, there are indications that this will change in 2022.
In late 2021, the impact of global supply and demand on fertiliser prices and, in turn, fertiliser sales was clear.
Due to rising prices, the demand for fertiliser earlier in the year increased significantly, as many farmers forward-bought.
Overall, sales of nitrogen (N) increased by 5.18% compared to 2020, while sales of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) increased by 4.09% and 4.16%, respectively, over the same period.
Prior to 2021 and with the exception of 2018, when drought conditions led to a fodder crisis resulting in an increased demand for fertiliser, growth of sales of fertiliser have been relatively modest over the last four years, indicating a levelling off in recent years.
It is expected that fertiliser will be purchased as required instead of forward-bought
With fertiliser prices expected to remain high and with an increased focus on soil fertility, the efficient use of fertilisers and other organic manures, an overall reduction in fertiliser use is expected in 2022. It is expected that fertiliser will be purchased as required instead of forward-bought.
Analyses of results from soil research from across all of the main soil-testing laboratories indicate a continuing positive trend with regard to improvement in overall soil fertility levels.
Soil pH has been improving over time, and results show less highly acidic soils with more soils within the optimal agronomic range of = 6.3.
The proportion of soils at the agronomic optimum of P Index =3 has been increasing since 2016.
Across all soils sampled in 2019, 23% had soil fertility levels capable of supplying nutrients for high levels of grass and crop production
The change in K levels has been less during this period, with the highest proportion of soils tested still at the sub-optimal Index 2.
Both from an agronomic and environmental perspective the proportions of soils meeting the optimum criteria has increased since 2016.
Across all soils sampled in 2019, 23% had soil fertility levels capable of supplying nutrients for high levels of grass and crop production (pH =6.3 and P and K index =3), up from 14% in 2017. However, excluding soils at P Index 4, which have higher risk for P loss to water, the proportion of soils at both the agronomic and environmental optimum accounted for 13% of all soils sampled in 2019, up from 4.7% in 2017.