Account for crops fertiliser needs when purchasing Nitrogen and Sulphur, advises CF Fertilisers
Farmers who purchase Nitrogen purely on the basis of price, without considering how to fulfil their crops Sulphur requirement, are putting yield, quality and profitability at risk, according to CF Fertilisers, the UK's leading fertiliser manufacturer.
"Despite above average yields for most areas for cereal harvest 2014, protein levels and grain selling prices were lower. As a result, some growers have been sold 'cheap' Nitrogen this season in the form of straight urea," David Beck of CF Fertilisers states. "This could be a false economy as many will not have fully considered the agronomic issues involved, particularly urea's in-effectiveness in the drier and warmer weather we have seen this spring, it's poor performance in higher protein achievement, the requirement for more N applied as urea to achieve yield potential and also where Sulphur applications fit in the system.
"Farmers and their agronomists go to great lengths to calculate Nitrogen rates that are specific to individual crops and farm conditions. Using urea, which is highly weather dependent and according to Defra trials can lose up to 43% of its Nitrogen through volatilisation, particularly in hot, dry weather, is completely at odds with modern Precision Farming systems. Growers could therefore be risking their entire year's production and profitability by relying on a product which, unlike Ammonium Nitrate, has been formulated for the ease and low cost of manufacture, is chemically unstable and has to undergo chemical change before it becomes available to the plant."
"We have had reports of farmers who have purchased urea being concerned about the dry weather this spring. Some have now purchased additional N as Ammonium Nitrate, rather than use the urea they had been sold to avoid risking compromises in crop performance," said Clive Deeley, CF Fertilisers National Advice Manager. "Newer varieties like Skyfall, with high potential for yield and quality, require correct Nitrogen rates, potentially above standard. Most important is the predictable availability of Nitrogen to the crop, which can only confidently be achieved with Ammonium Nitrate.
"Another issue with urea is the question of where Sulphur application fits into the system, so that you are applying the correct amount at the right time.
"Sulphur is taken up into the plant at similar times to Nitrogen, so where large amounts are required it is advisable to split the recommended requirement. However, farmers who use urea to supply the crop's nitrogen requirements may have difficulty in applying the correct amount of Sulphur. Some will use Ammonium Sulphate (21N 60SO3) to supply this nutrient, but the balance between Nitrogen and Sulphur is just not right. If, for example, you are looking to apply 40kgN/ha as a first Nitrogen application in wheat, then the 114kgSO3/ha Sulphur applied with this product would be way above recommended rates. Conversely a recommended Sulphur rate of 50kgSO3/ha would lead to the under application of Nitrogen, just 17kgN/ha.
"Products such as CF Fertilisers DoubleTop® (27N 30SO3), Sulphur Gold® (29N 20SO3) or SingleTop® (27N 12SO3) offer a range of treatments to supply timely crop needs in the correct ratio and to suit your farming system.
"Farmers generally purchase Nitrogen months in advance of when it will be used and at that stage it is impossible to know what the weather conditions will be at the time of application. Given the significant investment of producing crops, it makes no sense to risk the entire season's production on the basis of a relatively small apparent cost saving when they could use crop nutrition products which are part of a reliable, consistent, well-proven system and deliver guaranteed results."