While fertiliser sales in Ireland have been steadily increasing over the last decade, there are continuing signs of a levelling off in recent years.
Excluding 2018, when the fodder shortage caused by drought conditions led to increased fertiliser use, growth in fertiliser sales has been relatively modest in the last four years.
In 2020, sales of nitrogen (N) increased by 3.3% compared to 2019, while sales of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) increased by 3.7% and 3.3%, respectively, over the same period.
Analyses of soil testing results from across all of the main soil-testing laboratories indicate a continuing positive trend with regard to improvement in overall soil fertility levels.
Soil pH has been improving over time, and results show less highly acidic soils, with more soils within the optimal agronomic range of = 6.3. The proportion of soils at the agronomic optimum of P Index =3 has been increasing since 2016. The change is that K levels have been less during this period, with the highest proportion of soils tested still at the suboptimal Index 2.
Both from an agronomic and environmental perspective, the proportions of soils meeting the optimum criteria has increased since 2016. Across all soils sampled in 2019, 23% had soil fertility levels capable of supplying nutrients for high levels of grass and crop production (pH =6.3 and P & K index =3), up from 14% in 2017. However, excluding soils at P Index 4, which have higher risk for P loss to water, the proportion of soils at both the agronomic and environmental optimum accounted for 13% of all soils sampled in 2019, up from 4.7% in 2017.