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Profit from CF N-Min sampling

Matt Williams

Farmer: Matt Williams, Shropshire

Crops grown: wheat, rape, winter barley

N-min: first year on barley

Yield gain: 1.44t/ha

Margin gain: extra £193/ha

Fertiliser used: Nitram® and DoubleTop®

New fertiliser policy lifts margins by nearly £200/ha

Using CF N-Min with a True Granular Sulphur compound followed by Nitram produced an extra 1.44t/ha of winter barley compared to existing fertiliser practice in 2018 farm trials at MW Farming, near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Worth an extra £193/ha in margin over fertiliser costs (MOFC), the results have confirmed the business’s decision to move away from urea across its entire 648ha of arable production and set a benchmark that liquid fertilisers could not rival, says the business owner Matthew Williams. “Every input we use has to make money and if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t justify a place in our system. With fertilisers being such a critical part of the business, it’s important to ensure we are using them as effectively as possible and whilst urea was seen as a low cost option, I wasn’t convinced it was performing sufficiently in terms of return on investment.”

The starting point was to gain insight into what N was already held in the soil before any application decisions could be made, as a lot of organic manure in the form of sewage sludge has been used in the past and some of the land has been turned into arable use from livestock previously, so N reserves are likely to be pretty healthy but variable.

The CF N-Min test was already being used for both the wheat and oilseed rape crops being grown so it was agreed to restrict the trial to a crop of winter barley to keep things simple.

The test measured an SMN of 27kg N/ha and an AAN of 29kg N/ha which resulted in a total N-Min reserve of 56kg N/ha. This, combined with the N estimated to already be in the plant, resulted in an SNS of 94kg/ha N. CF N-Calc then determined a rate of 190kg N/ha would be required in addition to achieve a yield of around 9t/ha.

The field was divided in two with all plots receiving 27kg N/ha and 30kg SO3/ha  from a first application of DoubleTop but then half the plots would receive their subsequent Nitrogen as Nitram (34.5% N) and the other half as straight urea.

The plots receiving the DoubleTop/Nitram combination produced 9.74t/ha whilst the DoubleTop/urea one achieved 8.3t/ha – 1.44t/ha less.

The financials are even more interesting. Whilst the Nitram cost £220/t and the urea £200/t, the extra expenditure more than paid off with an increase in margin of £193/ha – £1431/ha as opposed £1239/ha – in favour of Nitram.

“That’s a 13% increase overall, which if you achieved similar benefits across all the land Matthew farms would be worth nearly £120,000.