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GB & GM Stafford increase nitrogen usage

Published by , Digital Assistant Editor
World Fertilizer,

GB & GM Stafford saved money last year by improving fertilizer practice and increasing nitrogen usage by over 10%, as well as significantly increasing yields and gross margins from two key crops at Pickwick Lodge Farm, Corsham.

Combining recommendations from CF N-Min soil analysis with the use of a spring-applied NPKS compound in the form of CF Heartland Sulphur (24-8-8 (8SO3), the business increased its margin from KWS Cassia winter barley by £121.50/ha over standard farm practice, and by £229.00/ha in the case of Dekalb V3160L oilseed rape, a new HOLL variety.

GB & GM Stafford have used CF N-Min testing and analysis to optimise their fertilizer inputs for more than a decade. The service is particularly important because 10% of the farm is situated in a water abstraction zone, so optimising nutrient use is essential.

“Unless you measure the Nitrogen which is in the soil you cannot manage the Nitrogen that you apply,” James emphasised. “Because we apply manures in rotation it is essential for both environmental and economic reasons to use CF N-Min testing so that we use appropriate amounts of additional nutrients. Sometime this means putting on more than we might have done based on standard guidelines, at other times less, which can be difficult to accept. One year, for example, the N rate recommended by CF N-Min for oilseed rape was just 125kg N/ha, but the yields confirmed that it was correct.”

Samples are sent to Hill Court Farm Research, where they are analysed for SMN content and incubated to establish how much AAN will become available. CF’s N-Calc System then uses the Soil Nitrogen Supply (SNS) and N-Min result plus Spring Crop N to calculate the optimum Nitrogen input for cereals and oilseed rape.

To establish a baseline for nitrogen requirement, James Stafford’s adviser Ross Leadbeater, Business Manager for CF Fertilisers, took N-Min samples in the trial fields to provide a reference point. The results highlighted a requirement of 225 kg N/ha for winter barley. The farm’s standard practice of applying Nitrogen Sulphur in late February or early March, followed by top dressings to supply the remaining Nitrogen in April, the KWS Cassia delivered a yield of 8.85 t/ha, valued at £1062/ha. Where the N-Min approach was used in combination with Heartland Sulphur, yields increased to 9.8t/ha, worth £1176.00, without increasing nitrogen input.

The effect of this was to increase margin over fertilizer cost from £840.75/ha for the farm practice crop to £962.25/ha for the N-Min approach, representing an additional £121.50/ha.

In the case of oilseed rape, N-Min highlighted the need to apply 150kg N/ha. The standard farm practice again being a combination Nitrogen Sulphur followed by straight Nitrogen. At harvest, this approach produced a yield of 3.11t/ha, worth £1088.50/ha and a margin after fertilizer costs of £941.00. The Heartland Sulphur system generated a yield of 3.75t/ha, worth £1312.50, and a margin over fertilizer costs of £1170.00, representing an additional £229.00/ha.

With the base-line Nitrogen requirement established by N-Min for both treatments the performance improvement from the CF N-Min treatment came from additional elements of P, K and S in Heartland Sulphur driving better Nitrogen usage. James Stafford says the trials point the way to a rethink of a fertilizing system, which is delivering significant increases in yield.

“We have been applying Heartland Sulphur on our grassland for years, with one application in March and a second 35 days before the first cut of silage is taken. The results have always been excellent, particularly on our Cotswold Brash, but this was the first time that we had tried it in an arable situation, James explains. “Our experience highlighted definite advantages from using the spring-applied NPKS compound in the form of healthier plants, higher yields and additional financial margin.”

CF’s Ross Leadbeater added: “These results mirror other farmers’ experiences of spring-applied NPKS compounds and highlight the importance of thinking beyond the headline ‘cost per kilogram’ of nutrients by considering the overall picture. Spring-applied NPKS compounds are slightly more expensive because they are more complex to manufacture, but this is inconsequential compared with the additional performance they deliver. Principally this because they ensure that crops receive the nutrition they require, in the form they need it, when they need it.”

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