With the 1st of February signalling the start of slurry spreading most farmers will still have a chance to collect and analyse some soil samples before the growing season. The information provided by a soil analysis can save hundreds of pounds in fertiliser costs and can lead to significant increases in crop production. For livestock farmers the need to maximise use of the resources available on the farm and to closely manage input costs has never been greater. The potential for production from grass is not being exploited on many farms and basic good farming practice  - such as applying lime on a regular basis - is often neglected.

Spreading Fertiliser
Spreading Fertiliser

The benefits of correcting soil acidity, in terms of better utilisation of nutrients applied and in improved yield are well recognised but over three quarters of the soils tested still indicate a deficiency of lime. A knowledge of the phosphate and potash requirement of each field on the farm is essential to allow efficient use of the farm manures and will also ensure that the right fertilisers can be applied to deliver exactly the nutrients that the growing crop requires. This saves on the fertiliser bill but also reduces the risk of environmental damage through the loss of surplus nutrient to the atmosphere or to our waterways. The work of the industry’s Green House Gas partnership and the land management strategy project highlights the potential for efficient farming and precision in the use of inputs to improve farm profitability. Measurement is fundamental to good management and the soil analysis report is one of the key elements.

FERTILISER MARKET FIRMS

Following a period of flat fertiliser prices the market is waking up to the fact that there actually isn’t a great deal of product in the pipeline. The depressed demand of last season caused many nitrogen producers to ease back on production rather than build up massive stocks of material which the market was reluctant to buy.

Alarm bells sounded when the Indian government invited tenders for supply of 1.2 million tonnes of urea – usually such a tender would be well oversubscribed as leading manufacturers competed for the business – but when only 800,000 tonnes were offered it signalled a dramatic change in the supply/demand equation.

Globally the effect of reduced production in China, where the government have taken measures to  curtail the output of urea from coal fired production processes due to concerns about damage to the environment, will be significant – as will the political unrest in Turkey where ammonium nitrate has been removed from the market due to security concerns.

Local importing businesses have shipped less material in the late summer and autumn of 2016 due to dull demand and fears about the impact of poor grain prices on the fertiliser market. In recent weeks the market has reflected the growing supply concerns and demand has been driven by buyers looking to secure supplies ahead of higher replacement costs. Merchants are reporting significant activity as farmers move to cover at least some of their spring requirements.