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Phosphate Fertilisation Planning – How can this benefit your farm?

August 2, 2021

Emma Kirkland, a Technologist at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) explains the importance of developing a fertilisation plan, using the CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator.

The preparation of a fertilisation plan, a document which details your proposed organic manure and chemical fertiliser applications for the coming calendar year, is a method of ensuring a targeted approach to nutrient application. With increasing pressures on Northern Ireland’s agriculture sector to reduce its environmental impact, improve water quality and increase productivity, the application of nutrients, requires careful planning.  

The Nutrients Action Programme (NAP) 2019-2022, requires farmers to prepare a fertilisation plan if they intend to apply chemical phosphate fertiliser to grassland or if they plan to apply phosphorus rich (P-rich) manures, or anaerobic digestate to any land.  These fertilisers can only be applied where a crop demand is identified and based on soil analysis. A P-rich manure is a manure containing more than 0.25kg of total phosphorous per 1kg of total nitrogen. Examples of P-rich manures include pig manure, broiler breeder manures, layer manures and duck manure.

While the NAP regulations require a fertilisation plan to be prepared under the circumstances previously detailed, creation of a fertilisation plan has numerous benefits for all farm businesses. These benefits include: avoiding the unnecessary application of fertilisers, thereby reducing overall spend on chemical fertiliser, compliance with NAP, pollution prevention and targeting organic manures at low index soils to improve soil nutrient status.

Should you need to prepare a fertilisation plan under NAP, there are four key steps in its preparation;

  1. Establish the soil P status – using a current soil analysis
  2. Identify the P requirement or crop demand
  3. Calculate the quantity of organic manure to be applied – giving consideration to the nutrient content for each manure type
  4. Select the type and quantity of chemical fertiliser needed

Emma explained that for non-derogated farms, a video can be found here, which explains the benefits of creating a fertilisation plan and provides step-by-step instruction on how to create the plan using the CAFRE Online Crop Nutrient Calculator. The CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator, available at www.daera-ni.gov.uk/onlineservices, is the recommended tool to prepare your fertilisation plan.

Inputting soil analysis results and crop details allows the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium required by crops to be identified. Perhaps most importantly, using the CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator enables you to determine the correct type and application rate of organic manure and chemical fertilisers, ensuring you do not exceed crop requirement or breach NAP regulations. Finally, the CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator will produce a report which satisfies NAP requirements for a fertilisation plan, and can be updated as required. This report can be either saved on your computer electronically or printed off for future reference.

The CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator is an excellent resource when creating a fertilisation plan. Its use makes the process quicker, easier and more efficient, saving you both time and money. The use of its results will protect the environment by reducing the unnecessary application of nutrients and in particular chemical phosphate fertilisers.

The information included in a fertilisation plan will differ between non-derogated and derogated farms; farms operating within a derogation are those with a livestock manure nitrogen loading limit above 170kg nitrogen per hectare per year.  Derogated farms must adopt additional nutrient management measures to ensure that operating at a higher grazing livestock manure limit does not adversely impact on water quality.  Full details on information required to produce a fertilisation plan for a derogated farm can be found on the DAERA website.