Maximising your crop yield potential

David Barrett, Director of Fertiliser at McCreath Simpson and Prentice, discusses what to consider for your fertiliser management plan.

Spring is upon us and we are now entering application time for your first dressing of fertiliser. The rate, timing and accuracy are critical to maximising yield potential, so your decisions will make a significant difference on yield achieved.

There’s a simple principle that you can follow that will lead to making effective decisions; the 4R’s – right product, right rate, right time and right place. Get these right and you will maximise accuracy, efficiency, and return on your fertiliser investment. Soil analysis and blending good quality fertiliser lends itself directly to these principles.

4R’s: Right Product, Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place = Saves you Money!!!!

Right product
Soil analysis and matching nutrient crop requirement saves money because management is targeted for your specific farm needs. Investing in quality inputs is vital for best results. Poor quality fertiliser will cost you money. We source raw materials on a range of high specifications; size, bulk density, moisture, nutrient content and availability- this is needed to ensure we manufacture high quality fertiliser. It’s reflected in the performance of the products – which spread accurately up to 36m with correct calibration and spreader set up.

Granular Calcium Ammonium Nitrate is the main source of nitrogen in our blends to ensure a high quality stable base to build the P, K an S on to. When higher N grades are required such as a 27-5-5+S grassland grade etc. quality granular AN is used, not imported or prilled product.

Be aware of fertilisers that add urea (which is added to blends to cheapen down the cost) – it results in ‘sticky’ product when mixed with other nitrogen sources, affecting application but it also locks up phosphate when blended with TSP. Applications of Urea can lead to significant and costly nutrient losses so do your research on the process – it will pay back.

Right Rate
Matching crop nutrient requirement with the correct analysis at the correct application rate, maximises efficiency of the nutrient uptake. Most of us acknowledge this but have you ever considered the potential application savings that could be made by improving this efficiency in your business? And not only does it cut the cost of application, it will minimise the risks of over or under application effecting yield potential and the standing ability of the crop. Be careful not to risk losing the benefits of correct rate application with inadequate machinery.

When did you last calibrate your spreader? If you haven’t had your spreader tested it not too late – contact Spreader Calibration Services (01785 840 849) to arrange a visit.

Right Time
Maximizing efficiency of uptake of nutrients requires application to an actively growing crop and timing is critical dependent on weather and the ability to travel.

Calcium ammonium nitrate and Ammonium nitrate as a straight or NPK based blend will be more readily available than either straight Urea or NPK Urea blend. Urea is more suited to earlier and colder weather applications, reducing losses to volatilization (gassing off). Losses can be dramatic and costly when Urea is applied in warm conditions and on high pH soils unless using a dual inhibited product for maximum nutrient availability.

Make sure you know your soil type and you know your product.

Right Place
Accuracy of application is critical to maximize the number of feeding sites for the crop to access. Placement down the spout at drilling is accurate and efficient but can slow down the drilling application, restrict application rates and runs the risk of blocked coulters, affecting growth and yield.

Surface broadcast application applied accurately can be just as efficient on crop uptake but also does not slow down time critical drilling and allows higher rates of application in one pass. How often do you analyse the cost effectiveness of your machinery and/or your application systems to calculate the most productive, and profitable, outcome for your farm? Its easy to crack on with the same methods year on year but its vital you assess this area of your business for future sustainability.

With volatility and uncertainly in the sector, lets focus on what we can control – and that is working with the best products, following best practice and adopting new innovations to maximise farm profitability. Get in touch with MSP for advice on all crop management matters or to enquire about any of our products or services.