Changeable weather makes fertiliser predictions difficult

With extremes in weather conditions making forward planning challenging, many UK farmers will find grassland fertiliser requirements difficult to predict.

Improving the efficiency of grassland systems and achieving top yields is a priority for many as the agricultural industry experiences the effects of volatile commodity prices. Therefore, ensuring fertiliser requirements are met will be vital.

Dave Mitchell, Wynnstay Fertiliser Manager, explains, “Good quality grass is the most efficient way to feed stock, as it’s readily available and helps reduce the need to substitute with brought-in feeds.

“This year’s weather has been extremely changeable, from a long wet winter, to snow in April and then a heatwave at the beginning of May. This made grass growth rates fluctuate.”

Dave continues, “Therefore, it’s essential to gather as much information as possible before making any fertiliser purchasing or application decisions.

“One of the most effective methods is soil testing, which can be done by a Wynnstay Arable Specialist. This will help establish both the pH of the soil, as well as the macro and micro nutritional requirements.”

Many farmers are aware that nitrogen (N) levels are likely to be lower than average this year due to excessive rainfall over the winter, which causes leaching.

Dave explains other nutrients are also influential, “It’s important not to forget sulphur (S) levels. It’s been shown that if a sulphur deficiency is rectified, an extra 28 extra days winter feed/ha for dairy cows, 70 days extra feed days/ha for growing beef animals, or 350 days extra winter feed/ha for sheep could be achieved from the same silage ground.

“The challenge facing many farmers is hitting the right balance between investing inputs and making cost savings. The temptation, when margins are pressurised, is to automatically reduce fertiliser inputs.

“However, this can impact negatively on a business’ bottom line, as yield results and forage quality may be compromised, leading to reduced livestock performance.

“Therefore, I would recommend undertaking soil tests and utilising experts, to establish your bespoke soil nutritional needs and any potential deficiencies to ensure you get the fertiliser requirements right,” David concludes.

For more information on fertiliser contact the Wynnstay team: http://www.wynnstayarable.uk/contact-us/

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