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Modern varieties of wheat require greater application of Nitrogen compared to varieties grown only 30 years ago.


From the post war era until the 1990’s, the UK saw an exponential growth in wheat yields due to technological advancements in agronomy, farming methods and plant breeding.  These developments led to the national average yields increasing from 2.7 t/ha to 7.6t/ha; 1 t/decade, as the crop area doubled to 2.0 million hectares.

The UK has a favourable environment for achieving high yields and therefore best placed to rise to the challenge of global food demand. 

Research shows that the average amounts of Nitrogen fertiliser applied to wheat have been relatively static since the early 1980’s, so could you be missing out on yield potential?  The optimum dose for modern varieties has increased by circa 20 -25 kgs N per “tonne of yield improvement” compared to those varieties grown in the 1980’s! 

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



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.


Wheat nutrient uptake


P, K, Mg Status

Soil analysis should be conducted on a rotational basis so that 25% of the farm is sampled each year. Target Index at which crop removal rates of P & K should be made are :

Phosphate (P) Index 2

Potassium (K) Index 2-(minimum)

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.


  In Spring  Peak Uptake  At Harvest 
Nitrogen  80  310  280 
Phosphate  30  100  80
Potash  40  350  150 
Sulphur  20  80  60 


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 


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

In principle:

Wheat with grain N level of less than 2% has not had adequate Nitrogen available and unlikely to reach yield potential.

Milling wheat at 13.5% protein requires a grain N level of 2.36%N and requires more Nitrogen to achieve optimum yield and build grain.

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

Some milling wheat grower protocols prohibit late applications of liquid N and can cause scorch if applied in warmer and humid weather conditions.

Did you know that the effectiveness of Urea is severely impacted on by the weather- why take the risk?



With atmospheric Sulphur deposition now less than 10% of the 1980 levels and most of the UK now getting less than 10kg S/ha/year from this source, additional fertiliser sulphur is now essential in virtually all cropping. Milling wheat has a greater requirement than feed wheat.

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 wheat would only apply 17kg N
  • Applying 40kg N would apply well over twice the Sulphur requirement for Wheat.

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 on N:S analysis to suit ratios required.


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.

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



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

New wheat varieties such as Skyfall now have high potential for yield and protein, but do require above average Nitrogen rates to fulfil potential, together with adequate Sulphur levels for Nitrogen utilisation – this has to be taken into account in recommendations.

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


Wheat exports typically account for around 15% of UK production and require minimum protein specification.


  • ukp breadmaking wheat requires 11-13% protein
  • uks soft biscuit wheat requires 10.5 – 11.5% protein


Achieving wheat quality targets is seen as a major challenge by UK arable growers. Only 24% of farmers claim to achieve their Quality targets in 7 years out of ten. (CPM survey 2015)



Achieve your yield with help from CF Fertilisers



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 will contribute to the wheat crop during the growing season is key to assessing optimum rates, the fertiliser addition can then be accurately calculated.

A patented incubation process 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. 

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.