Over the last two years, there has been major disruption to the normal trading fertiliser channels due to the unrest in in western Europe.

This has resulted in fertiliser nitrogren (N) prices hitting the highs of €1,000/tonne and phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) doubling in price.

This has a dramatic impact on fertiliser N use, where fertiliser stats show that chemical N reduces by 25% compared to 2018. P and K use has also taken a dramatic drop over the last two years, with P and K usage reducing by 33% since 2021.

Also during these last two years, N use is averaging 311,881 tonnes (t), which is below the Government target of 330,000t by 2025 to stay within Climate Action Plan targets.

To sustain lower N use in the years ahead, it’s critical that sufficient P and K are applied to ensure soils are in the optimum index to drive N-use efficiency.

The use of compound fertilisers has reduced again significantly in 2023 – total tonnage of total compounds has reduced by 15% compared to 2022. For example, 18-6-12 has reduced for the second consecutive year by 20%.

We estimate that reduced fertiliser use in 2023 has reduced carbon emissions by approximately 1.6%.

Another target in the Climate Action Plan 2023 targets 90% to 100% uptake of protected urea on grassland farms by 2030. This equates to 90% to 100% of all straight nitrogen spread as protected urea in 2030.

Table 2 shows the use of CAN, urea and protected urea in 2023.

Overall urea use has reduced by 6% in 2023. Protected urea makes up 22% of all straight N used and we see use has increased by 18% (including compound N) in 2023.

Ordinary urea makes up 29% of all straight N applied with a decrease of 16% in 2023. CAN-based straight N use reduced by 30% in 2023.

Protecting all the straight urea used by farmers would make a huge difference to meeting our national ammonia targets now and into the future.

Urea and protected urea now make up a combined 51% share of the straight nitrogen market, and if all this was protected, farmers would be almost 57% of the way towards the 2030 Protected Urea Target.

FAQ on the National Fertiliser Database – Feb 2024

Q1: Can I still register and declare closing stock?

A1: If you have not already made a return on the National Fertiliser Database, you can still register and declare your closing stock.

Q2: What do I need to do if I have fertiliser that is going to be used by another farmer?

A2: If you wish to transfer fertiliser to be used by another farmer, you must also register as a Fertiliser Economic Operator (by ticking a separate box) and enter details of the fertiliser that has been transferred.

Q3: I import fertiliser onto my farm, what do I need to do?

A3: If you import fertiliser, you must register as a Fertiliser Economic Operator and then enter details of all fertiliser imports within 72 hours of the product arriving into the country.

Q4: I want to buy fertiliser from my supplier, what do I need to do?

A4: Once you are registered, when you go to buy fertiliser, you will be asked for your herd number, which is your unique registration number.

The co-op/agri-merchant will input details of the transaction onto the National Fertiliser Database and the transaction details will be registered against your herd number.

Increased requirement for farmers to soil sampling

Soil sampling and analysis for phosphorus (P), organic matter (OM) and soil pH shall be done in accordance with requirements of the Department and as outlined in Schedule 1 of the Nitrates Directive GAP Regulations that came into effect in March 2022.

The 5th Review of the GAP Regulations carries the following now-relevant changes:

  • A) From 1 January 2023, all farmers with a previous year’s grassland stocking rate (GSR) above 130 kg N/ha, prior to the export of manure, must take soil samples.
  • B) Where soil samples are not taken, for whatever reason, then it is assumed phosphorus Index 4 until soils are taken. Since March 2022, this applies to all farmers who have a previous year’s GSR of and above 170kg N/ha prior to the export of livestock manure, and all farmers above GSR 130 kg N/ha, from 2023 on.
  • C) From 1 January 2023, all arable land sown must be soil tested and assumed Index 4 without soil samples.
  • D) OM determination: from 2022, soils greater than 20% OM (as per Teagasc/EPA Indicative Soils map) are not required to carry out an OM determination. Unless a holding does not accept their soils have an OM content of 20% and above, then a soil test including OM determination must be taken. Soil test result determining OM content will be valid for 12 years following sampling.