Maintaining food security at EU and international level has become increasingly challenging due to more erratic weather conditions, increasing energy prices and geo-political issues affecting global trade and the movement of goods.

However, these issues place an increased focus and responsibility on efficient food producing regions of the world, including countries like Ireland, to maintain food supply. It is also an imperative that we sustainably manage and conserve the planet’s natural resources, including agricultural soils, for future generations.

Agriculture is a key part of the Irish landscape and the national economy, enabled by our productive soils, humid climate and long growing season. Our agricultural systems will have to continue to evolve over the next number of decades and embrace new technologies to combat emerging challenges of changing weather patterns and to meet existing national targets for climate and water quality and future targets for biodiversity and soil health.

Since its formation in 1968, the Fertilizer Association of Ireland has promoted the efficient use of fertilisers to produce quality food in an economical and sustainable manner. As farmers and the wider agricultural industry rise to meet these challenges, we need to be prudent to replenish and manage our soil resources in order to maintain their fertility and long term productivity.

Nutrient management and fertiliser inputs have been central to increasing global food supply, and efficient use of fertiliser nutrient resources is a key component for achieving climate smart and sustainable food production.

Building blocks

Nutrients such as, N, P, K & S are utilised by plants in the largest quantities and are the main building blocks of food production.

Nutrient inputs represent a significant input cost of production on farms, especially in recent years where fertiliser costs have been relatively high. Grassland and crops rely on balanced nutrition from the soil to produce high yields and to maintain their health and nutritive quality.

However, the sustainable use of applied nutrients on farms is also essential to protect the environment and we must account for factors such as local weather conditions, soil type, and seasonal nutrient demand in deciding when to apply fertilisers and organic manures. Four key aspects to be considered to help ensure that nutrients are applied and used efficiently are the 4 Rs – right product applied at the right rate, right time and in the right place.

In Fertiliser Focus 2024, fertiliser strategies for grassland and tillage farms are discussed for the year ahead. The basics on fertiliser spreader calibration are explained as well as key learnings from recent fertiliser use trends and soil analysis results. The latest in the FAI technical bulletin series (No. 7) “Improving Farm Nitrogen Use Efficiency” is discussed and provides a timely update for farmers and the wider agricultural industry on how to maximise the efficient use of N on farms.

Total N usage per hectare has fallen significantly on SBLAS beef farms since 2020, likely attributed to the increased costs of fertiliser.

The key points from the technical papers presented at the Fertilizer Association of Ireland spring meeting are also discussed. Leading scientist on climate change mitigation in agriculture, Prof Gary Lanigan discussed the how Irish agriculture can meet its climate change target obligations and various management practices for reducing greenhouse gas emissions on farms as outlined in the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC).

Peter Scott, president of the European Fertilizer Blenders Association, outlines the importance and benefits of achieving balanced crop nutrition for grassland and crop production. He discusses the use of prescription fertilisers tailored to the specific needs of the soil and crops and shares the initial results from this approach to crop nutrition and fertiliser management.

Kevin Ahern, farm manager at Shinagh Dairy Farm, Co Cork, shares his dairy farming experiences of managing the soils, grassland swards and animals on the farm and the goal of achieving a carbon neutral farming system in the future.

Kevin provides insights to managing soil fertility and organic and fertiliser application management on the farm in conjunction with his Teagasc adviser John McNamara. He discusses the establishment of red clover silage swards and the management of white clover within the grazing swards on the farm and how these have contributed to reduced reliance of chemical N fertiliser.


These experiences from practitioners and advice from experts demonstrate that where soils are maintained and managed effectively, they function correctly and produce quality food in a sustainable manner.

It’s the Fertilizer Association of Ireland’s mission to support farmers and the industry to do just that.

Finally, can I remind readers that the Fertilizer Association of Ireland has many resources available to help make better decisions around fertiliser use this coming growing season.

This information is available on our website (, follow us on Facebook to see our advice on fertiliser and nutrient use and also our P & K nutrient app, available for Android and Apple. I would also like to wish all readers the very best success for the year ahead.