When spreading fertiliser, whether that be in organic manures or artificial fertiliser, it is essential that you are using optimum amounts.

Spreading at optimum rates makes sure you are not purchasing excess fertiliser that is not benefiting crop yield, but costing you money.

It ensures fertiliser is not being over-applied and at risk of loss to water and, this year, it also means that you are within the rules of the new fertiliser database.

The key starting point is soil sampling. Ideally, you should soil sample every three years. The Department of Agriculture requires a set of soil samples less than five years old for records and the sample should not cover more than 4ha in size.

If your soil samples are not in date, then you are limited in what fertiliser you can apply.

The next thing you need to keep in mind is the previous cropping history (see Table 1) of a field for nitrogen applications and the current crop being grown (Table 2).

You should also have historical yields available and data on any organic manures applied, as well as livestock numbers or meal dockets if it is a mixed farm, or you have animals grazing temporarily on crops.

Once you have all of this information you can go to the nitrates directive, Teagasc’s green book or these pages and look at the tables for each crop to calculate your fertiliser allowances.

If you are not confident to calculate this yourself, then you can get your adviser to carry out a nutrient management plan for you.

This may already be included in your package. All farms should have a plan for conditionality (cross compliance).

Nitrogen index is determined by previous crop. P and K index is determined by a soil test.

National Fertiliser Database

  • Came into effect in September 2023.
  • Need to register.
  • Need to provide your herd number when purchasing fertiliser.
  • Need to record closing stocks each year.
  • Some key points to remember

  • You cannot apply phosphorus (P) if you are in index 4 for P and your pH is under 7.
    • If you are in index 4 for P and have a soil pH over 7, you can apply 20kg/ha or 16 units/acre of P.
    • If you are growing malting barley and have proof of low protein you can apply an extra 20kg/ha of nitrogen (N).
    • If you can show that you have yields higher than the base yield in the past three years, you can apply 20kg/ha more N for every tonne reached over the reference yield (Table 4).
    • You must provide proof of these higher yields with grain dockets.
    • Wheat, barley and oats take 3.8kg P/ha per tonne of grain produced when the straw is removed.
    • Wheat takes 9.8kg/ha of K, barley 11.4kg/ha of K and oats 14.4kg/ha of K per tonne of grain when the straw is removed.
    • When the straw is not removed, wheat, barley and oats take 3.4kg/ha of P per tonne of grain.
    • When the straw is not removed then wheat, barley and oats take off 4.7kg/ha of K per tonne of grain produced.

      See Tables 3, 5 and 6.