Is it wrong to say that farmers should be spreading more fertiliser in 2024? To answer this, we probably need to look at the why. Why should farmers spread more fertiliser?

The obvious answer is to grow more grass and as outlined here, the reduction in nitrogen use over the last few years is deemed to have cost farmers in terms of grass growth. So, spreading more nitrogen might increase growth, but so too would increasing clover content, therefore it’s not a straightforward answer.

Improving soil fertility is another important consideration, which is essential for clover establishment and improved nitrogen efficiency. For the last few years, there has been a greater neglect of phosphorus and potassium because spreading rates have decreased even though soil fertility is still generally poor.

So spreading more P and K-based fertiliser would be good if it was to improve soil fertility.

Spreading more nitrogen or compound fertiliser may not be a bad thing if it makes farms more sustainable, both economically and environmentally. The challenge will be how to manage the narrative if the trends start going the wrong way.

There has been good public relations from reducing fertiliser use over the last two years as it reduces greenhouse gas emissions but will farming now get bad PR if fertiliser sales data shows an increase? This is despite the fact that spreading more fertiliser might be the right thing to do.

Obviously, how much fertiliser to spread is an individual decision taken at farm level.

The key points to remember are to spread the right product at the right rate and at the right time to avoid losses or poor efficiency.

There is good news on the fertiliser front with a raft of new compound fertiliser products hitting the market with protected urea added. Details are presented here, with the good news being farmers now have the option to use protected urea instead of CAN-based compounds.