Saturday, June 23, 2018

Increase gross margins while meeting new Defra rules

June 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

Using a controlled release fertiliser (CRF)  in place of a standard nitrogen programme, can increase marketable potato yields by over 7t/ha – lifting gross margins by as much as £580t/ha, according to recent trials.

The trial results come as Defra introduces a new set of farming rules for water to help protect water quality (see box). The use of CRFs could help meet a key aim of minimising nitrate leaching, say manufacturers.

“The innovative CRF technology is simple but effective, the fertiliser granules are coated with a semi-permeable layer that acts like a gateway,” explains ICL technical sales manager Richard Collins.

“As the soil temperature increases, cracks open in line with the plant’s nutritional needs. But if the temperature drops, these close and reduce the nutrient flow to the crop, so that wastage is avoided, and leaching is greatly reduced.”

The new rules also require careful planning of fertiliser applications. Using the right fertiliser blend for the field is key to productivity, and the rules say regular soil testing can lead to a better understanding of specific crop requirements.

“While individual fields will have different needs, some potato crops will require a small amount of straight nitrogen just after emergence, in addition to the base applications, to give the crop a boost,” says Dr Collins.

“After this, a CRF such as Agrocote that offers a gradual ‘drip-feed’ of nitrogen is preferable throughout the growing season and can eliminate the need for follow up applications. Getting this balance right will ensure that nitrogen leaching is kept to a minimum.”

Too much fertiliser applied to a young crop will also encourage inefficient and excessive leaf growth instead of tuber development.

New fertiliser rules:

• Plan use of manures and fertilisers
  Store organic manures correctly
  Apply manures or fertilisers properly
  Don’t apply near watercourses
  Act to prevent soil erosion

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