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Blue Bags Grow Better Crops


Barley is a crop that is recognised as having greater potential than is being achieved in the UK market.


Achievement of its potential depends on understanding how the crop develops, which has subtle differences to wheat and has attracted more R & D attention in recent years.

Barley areas in the UK declined as oilseed rape became more popular through the 1980’s and 1990’s but is now stable around 1 million ha, around half the wheat area. Typically 60% of the barley area is spring sown in the UK, this can vary if autumn drillings are weather affected.

There are a number of markets supplied by barley, with different requirements and specification. It’s physiology means it is often grown later in the rotation and on lighter soils, but recognition of current Nitrogen and Sulphur requirements and particularly application timings are starting to realise more of the potential from Barley.

Use our fertiliser selector below to find out which fertiliser will best suit your crop and soil needs and access a blueprint for growth.

Start your CF Fertilisers journey today…


pH Level



A pH range of 6.5 to 7.0 is the optimum to cover availability of nutrients in an arable rotation. In the diagram below, the wider the band in each nutrient, the greater the availability.


P, K, Mg Status


Soil analysis should be conducted on a rotational basis so that key areas are analysed every 4 years. Target Index at which crop removal rates of P & K should be made are :

Phosphate (P) Index 2

Potassium (K) Index 2-

Magnesium (Mg) Index 2

For indices higher or lower than target, adjust rates accordingly as shown in the Fertiliser Manual (RB209)

Once soil index is know use our fertiliser selector to access the best fertiliser system for your needs.

Crop Uptake

Nutrient uptake is limited in early spring, increasing rapidly during stem extension. Peak uptake is during May/June depending on nutrient followed by some reduction as the crop ripens. Note peak uptake of Potash will exceed that of Nitrogen and should be taken into account when formulating fertiliser recommendations.


Typical crop nutrient uptake in Winter Barley kg/ha nutrient

  In Spring  Peak Uptake  At Harvest 
Nitrogen  50  200  180 
Phosphate  25  80  70 
Potash  30  300  130 
Sulphur  20  60  40 


Crop Removal At Harvest

Crop removal of nutrient becomes the base point for recommendations of P & K.

Note removing straw increases Phosphate offtake by 8%, but increases Potash removal by over 80%. Where straw is removed, additional Potash will be required to maintain target levels.


Kg Nutrient per Tonne Fresh Yield  Phosphate  Potash 
Grain Only  7.8  5.6 
Grain and Straw  8.4  10.4 


For more information or advice call our Crop Nutrition Team on +44(0)151 357 5758 or email

Use our fertiliser selector to access a blueprint for fertilisation and product recommendations.




Nitrogen is a key contributor to yield and protein formation.  It is supplied from:

  • Soil Mineral N (SMN)–available soil Nitrogen available for plant uptake
  • Additional Available Nitrogen (AAN) – organic Nitrogen which needs to be mineralised before it becomes available for crop uptake
  • Organic manures – supplying both readily available and organic Nitrogen which requires mineralising before crop uptake.
  • Minor amounts provided by wet and dry deposition.
  • Additional fertiliser Nitrogen


Soil Nitrogen supply =

soil mineral N + N likely to be mineralised during the growing season + Spring Crop N

The most efficient form of Nitrogen in the UK climate is Ammonium Nitrate (Nitram®) as proven in the most extensive trial carried out in recent times by Defra in 2004/5. This NT26 trial series is recognised across Europe as the most credible data on Nitrogen use efficiency and went as far as to state that;

AN remains the best option for UK agriculture and early application of urea did not guarantee reduced ammonia losses.

Defra NT26



With atmospheric Sulphur deposition now less than 10% of the 1980 levels and most of the UK now getting less than 10kg S from this source, additional fertiliser Sulphur now essential in virtually all cropping.

Take the benefits for our Sulphur products away with you.

Most efficient form of Sulphur is the Ammonium Sulphate form, in the correct ratio for crop requirement. Straight Ammonium Sulphate at 21%N 60% Sulphate (SO3) is unbalanced in N : S ratio:

  • Applying 50kg Sulphate for barley would only apply 17kg N
  • Applying 40kg N would apply well over twice the Sulphur requirement for barley.


Nitrogen and Sulphur have to be applied annually to crops in spring, soils cannot hold available supplies over winter efficiently. CF Fertilisers have a range of N:S analysis to suit ratios required and our trusted brand names of DoubleTop andSingleTop are regularly used throughout Britain.

Sulphur has shown clear benefits in facilitating better crop Nitrogen uptake and yield. This has achieved additional yields and in the case of Malting barley, without increasing grain N levels.

Use our product selector to access a fertiliser recommendations and blueprints for wheat growth. 


Phosphate and Potash

Phosphate and Potash have major functions in crop production, heavy clay soils typically being more Phosphate deficient and medium / lighter soils being more Potash deficient.

Up to year 2000 P & K application exceeded removal.

Since year 2000 crop removal has exceeded fertiliser application.

The data below does not account for manures applied which will reduce but in many cases not eliminate soil nutrient deficits.

Peak uptake of Potash in wheat can exceed 350kg/ha requiring adequate soil reserves and significant Potash application.

Phosphate and Potash Uptake

Whilst traditionally applied in autumn or over winter, Phosphate and Potash can be applied as a single dressing in spring, together with Nitrogen and Sulphur and save additional workload on the farm.


While still a major nutrient, Magnesium not typically in deficient supply, but in some regions where Magnesium applications are required and particularly where roots are in the rotation, Calcined Magnesite is the usual source.

For more information or advice please contact our Crop Nutrition Team on +44 (0)151 357 5758 or email 


Whether Feed or Malting Barley, optimum profitability from crop nutrition depends on correct calculation of Nitrogen requirements to achieve the quality required for your market.

New barley varieties now have potential for high yield and low grain N levels, but do require careful assessment of Nitrogen rates to fulfil potential, together with adequate Sulphur levels for Nitrogen utilisation – this has to be taken into account in recommendations.

Use our fertiliser selector get access our recommendations and blueprint for growth.

In the case studies below, on the left the soils have generally had higher mineral N reserves that haven’t been fully accounted for and the crop has been over fertilised where normal farm practice has been used. On the right, where mineral N contribution has been accurately assessed the target N level at harvest is much closer.

Crop Balance Accuracy

Feed Barley

Nitrogen requirements for feed barley are not aimed at specific grain N %, but based on yield and standing potential of the crop. Ongoing research by CF Fertilisers into optimum rates and timing for feed barley suggest higher N rates than the Fertiliser Manual are justified (additional 32kg N/ha over current recommendations) and a higher proportion applied at the first application timing. The amount depends upon the Soil Nitrogen Supply in Spring, use the N-Min® Service to understand how much at each timing.


Malting Barley

Maltsers purchase around 2 million tonnes of Barley each year.


Grain N% determines malting quality and typically in a range 1.5-1.8% N but some markets require levels to be lower than 1.5%. Higher yields achieved partly by crop genetics and applications of Sulphur dilute grain N levels.

Modern varieties of both Winter and Spring types can respond to Nitrogen levels of 200kg N/ha depending on Soil Nitrogen Supply. An annual application of Sulphur enhances the yield of both feed and malting varieties. In the case of a malting crop Sulphur reduces the level of grain Nitrogen and therefore protects malting premiums.


For more information about our Services or advice please contact us on +44(0)151 357 5758 / 


How do I arrive at profitable Nitrogen rates?

CF Fertilisers have had 30 years of experience with Nitrogen recommendations.

Our customers who use our advice and services achieve above average yields and if applicable, are able to achieve this extra yield without compromising malting premiums from increased grain N levels.


N-Min® and N-Calc service.

Assessing the amount of Nitrogen the soil contributes to the growth of the barley crop during the growing season is key to assessing the optimum rate to apply.

A patented analysis makes N-Min® unique in accuracy of Nitrogen recommendation.


Don't just take our word for it, these farmers have had great results year on year.


A sulphur recommendation will also be provided in a product to suit your system.

So get in touch today to unlock the potential on your farm +44 (0)151 357 3738 or email


For more information about our Services contact our Crop Nutrition Team on +44(0)151 357 5758 or email


Each field on your farm is individual with its own characteristics and nutritional requirements. Follow our step by step guide and unlock the potential on your farm today.

  1. Identify crop to be grown, intended market and crop quality requirement.

  2. Annually use the N-Min analysis and Nitrogen Calculator (N-Calc) to understand the Soil Nitrogen Supply.

  3. Sample ¼ of the farm each year and analyse for soil pH, P, K and Mg.

    Target Values to maintain in arable rotations  
     Soil pH 6.5 (5.8 on peat soils) 
     Soil P  Index 2
     Soil K  Lower Index 2(2-)
     Soil Mg  Index 2
  4. The N-Min analysis is the only test that measures both Soil Mineral Nitrogen (SMN) and Additionally Available Nitrogen (AAN) to accurately quantify the Total Nitrogen available during the growing season.

  5. Annually review Phosphate and Potash applications to ensure that optimal levels are maintained. It is important to allow for any surplus or soil deficit situations due to the under or over application of phosphate or potash to previous crops in the rotation.

  6. Use N-Calc to work out the N requirement of Cereals and Oilseed Rape.

  7. Annually check that the fertiliser spreader is in good working order and is calibrated to specific spreading width.

  8. Ensure that accurate records are kept of any fertilisers and organic manures applied.

Contact us for fertiliser advice, our expert team of FACTS qualified advisers are on hand to provide you with the latest advice in fertiliser management and nutrient plans.