Phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) fertilisers have doubled in price in recent years, while nitrogen (N) is now four times the price that it was.

This is a worrying time for farmers, as indications would suggest that these price hikes may remain at these levels for some time yet.

They have come about as a result of supply issues due to the COVID pandemic and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

It is now more important than ever that farmers use their fertiliser efficiently to both maintain production levels and reduce their impact on the environment.

It is important that when it comes to efficiency, farmers keep in mind that efficiency includes:

  • Identifying the correct requirements.
  • Choosing the correct products.
  • Applying them accurately.
  • The next few weeks are a critical time for farmers in terms of assessing soil fertility and creating a fertiliser and lime plan for the farm.

    Fertiliser figures

    According to Teagasc, figures for fertiliser use for the first two quarters of 2022 show that fertiliser N applications have increased by 13%, while P and K applications have reduced by about 7% and 13% respectively.

    Cutting back on fertiliser may cut costs for farmers initially, but, over time, it will result in the decreased productivity of soils.

    It is important to note that inadequate P and K levels or low pH can reduce the efficiency with which plants use expensive fertiliser N.

    Soil testing

    Now is a good time for farmers to identify areas of their farm that need soil analysis and to start to plan for soil sampling in the next few weeks and months. Soil sampling will provide a good foundation for managing fertiliser costs in 2023.

    However, it is very important that soil sampling is carried out correctly in order to achieve the best results.

    Samples should be taken with a soil corer to the correct depth of 10cm. These samples will form the basis for nutrient applications on the farm for the next four to five years.

    Below are some guidelines that should be adhered to when taking a soil sample:

  • Take at least one sample for a 2ha to 4ha area.
  • Follow a W soil sampling pattern across the field and avoid machinery traffic lines or tramlines.
  • Leave three to six months between sampling and P and K applications.
  • Leave two years between sampling and lime application.
  • Take about 20 cores to make up the soil sample.
  • Prepare a soil sampling map and label your samples.