The main things that are most different about tillage farming is that there is only one chance to do everything, we can measure the final yield accurately and there is only one harvest per year.

This means that we need to think long and hard about crop responsiveness to costs that double or treble.

Return on investment should be the main thing that drives the use rate of any input, alongside potential environmental consequences.

Nitrogen usage in tillage is well fine tuned and we achieve good use efficiencies.

While nitrogen use efficiency for cereal crops is around 70%, that does not mean that every kilo you apply is equally responsive.

So our total spend on fertiliser, especially nitrogen, must be looked at with a more critical eye for the year ahead.

While fertiliser spend needs to be scrutinised, other options should also be considered to help offset the higher fertiliser cost.

The most obvious one is to switch some acres to a leguminous crop like beans or peas as these do not require any nitrogen fertiliser and they reduce the nitrogen requirement in the following crop.

Another change worth considering would be to switch more acres into oats.

This crop has a lower nitrogen requirement and, so, higher fertiliser costs do not bite into margin as hard.

The other crop that is worth considering is oilseed rape, given where crop prices are currently.

Canopy management

While winter crops are long sown, canopy management can be used on well-fleshed crops to help to significantly decrease the amount of applied N. In some instances, the N rate reduction could be down to 50%. But one key ingredient for all crops is to have an appropriate soil pH level. This is key to making best use of nutrients, both applied and those that come from the soil reserves.