Important updates and advice regarding coronavirus (Covid-19)

Managing the volatility of the fertiliser markets: A look back at the fertiliser market in 2020

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The 2020-2021 growing season will be remembered by growers for many things: lockdown, online meetings, the unpredictable weather and volatility in both the grain and fertiliser markets.

The link between grain and fertiliser markets is a complex one. When grain prices are higher, it drives demand for fertiliser. In other words, food security creates demand. However, perhaps over this last year, it has been Covid-19 that has had the greatest impact of all on the high nitrogen values we've seen.

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Assessing the nitrogen requirements of milling wheat

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As my colleague, Edward Downing, explained in his blog about final nitrogen decisions for cereals, the wet autumn and winter has really thrown up some challenges.

After extensive rainfall early in the new year, we went into one of the coldest but driest spring seasons on record. Today though, I think we'd all agree that weather pattern has broken. May has, so far, been riddled with unsettled conditions – you might forgive some people for thinking we were actually in October.

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Final nitrogen decisions

Final nitrogen decisions

Since the rain has started to fall across the UK, I've had several people asking about the final nitrogen applications on a number of crops. Unsurprisingly, there's quite a lot to consider so we've put together a two-part blog series to help you address all of the key information.

In this first blog I've compiled some advice on final nitrogen decisions for the main arable crops, taking into account overall conditions we've seen this season and what they mean for final doses on oilseed rape, winter wheat and spring cereal crops.

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Spring blog series: Increase NUE to improve your farm efficiency rating

Liquid fertiliser

If a production system experiences losses, its efficiency is going to be reduced. Often this can lead to a reduction in output too and, if losses are severe enough, even an increase to overall running costs.

If we look at this in relation to our fertiliser programmes the risks are similar, so preventing any losses can lead to some real gains. For example, by reducing the CO2e/t of production you could improve your margins and simultaneously benefit the environment.

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Spring blog series: Are your fertiliser programmes still right?

Fertiliser programmes

With April quite literally around the corner and early nitrogen doses now applied, it's an opportune time to reflect on what's happened so far this season and factor in decisions for future applications. I believe it's always sensible to constantly question the fertiliser plans and programmes made earlier in the season and it's not to say they are wrong, it's to check they are still right!

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Potatoes without diquat: Keeping an eye on your nitrogen levels when using PPO inhibitors

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Since the loss of the desiccant diquat last February, growers have had to look at alternatives in their potato crop burn-down programmes. For many, this means a closer look at nitrogen applications is also needed.

Most growers have turned to PPO inhibitors as an alternative to diquat for desiccating their potato crops. However, as PPO inhibitors work differently to diquat, this has an impact on subsequent nitrogen rates.

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Economic and yield returns: The results of SOYL’s variable rate nitrogen trials in 2020

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At SOYL, we have been running an extensive precision farming research and development programme for nearly 30 years. The work is central to the value of our technology and services, and today we now possess one of the largest trial databases in the world. A significant part of this work involves trials to compare our variable rate application approach against flat rate applications.

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How will variable rate nitrogen affect my sulphur applications?

Variable rate nitrogen

It's one of the first questions we face from growers when discussing variable rate nitrogen (VRN) and it's understandable given sulphur is one of the major nutrients required by plants. If optimum amounts aren't available, it will have a direct impact on end yield.

As it happens, in nearly all of these conversations our recommendation to growers is to apply sulphur variably alongside their nitrogen in order to achieve optimum yields and quality. Of course, as with all nutritional decisions, some forward planning is required.

With this in mind, we're going to address some common questions to help you plan for the spring and ensure you get the maximum benefits from variably applying sulphur.

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Optimising nitrogen inputs: measuring residual N with satellite imagery

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I'll admit that at first sight filling your tractor with oil and planning your nitrogen applications don't appear to have much in common but in one simple way they are very similar. Before you do both, you need to know how much you've already got in the tank or in the soil, so you know exactly how much more you need to put in.

When it comes to nitrogen applications, rates should only be decided once you have fully assessed the requirements of your crops. As well as thinking about inputs, this also means making an informed judgement on how much nitrogen will be supplied by your soils.

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Using grain protein to plan your nitrogen rates

Frontier nitrogen

The nitrogen inputs to your crops can be one of the most important factors that influence crop output and, ultimately, the profitability of your business. There is a wealth of tools and information to help guide you when it comes to applying the optimum rate of nitrogen, but how do you know if you are actually getting it right and making the best use of these applications to maximise your financial return?

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Milling wheat - final decisions

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As I write this, glancing out of the window to look at blue skies over dry soil, it's all too easy to forget the extremely wet autumn and winter we all endured. Clearly, this posed a massive challenge for establishing autumn crops and has led to one of the smallest winter wheat areas we've seen for decades. 

It did, though, also cause large amounts of mobile nutrients like nitrogen and sulphur to be leached out of the soil, meaning we started spring growth with very low levels naturally available. Indeed...

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Welcome dry weather but implications for liquid fertiliser

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The recent dry weather has been incredibly welcome and has finally allowed drills, sprayers and fertiliser spreaders to roll across the country. But, dare I ask, how long will it be before we're looking for some fresh rain?!

There is clearly a massive variation in growth stage and condition of the autumn crops across the country, but the more forward crops have started to get hold of applied nitrogen and actually look quite good .At the other extreme, some of the most backward crops are not that far ahead of the spring cereals that are now going in the ground. As long as reasonable seedbeds can be achieved and drilling doesn't get delayed, the potential for these spring crops should be good. 

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Cutting your fuel costs with variable rate

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I'm sure farmers across the UK breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday, as it was confirmed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the tax break on red diesel would remain in place for the agricultural industry.

Over the past week, farmers have been steeling themselves for a potential 50% rise in fuel costs following reports that the tax relief was going to be scrapped altogether as part of the 2020 Budget. While the news is a positive outcome for the industry the Chancellor has, however, announced that other sectors will be stripped of the tax exemption in two years' time. 

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What are the nutrition implications following the autumn/winter rainfall?

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Well, it won't be surprising to learn that many soils will have lost nitrogen via leaching.

To demonstrate the impact, AHDB has produced a map to show the winter rainfall classification. This forms part of the RB209 book method for producing a Soil Nitrogen Supply (SNS) index and is a good starting point as you begin to look at your nitrogen programme for this spring. 

However, rather than rely solely on this information, our team at Frontier decided to carry out the measurement of Soil Mineral Nitrogen (kg N/ha) at a number of nationwide trial sites. The findings are outlined in the below table.

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Removing straw: calculating the cost of replacing lost nutrients

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Last harvest, the prolonged hot weather greatly affected grass growth across the UK and caused a shortage of silage for many livestock farmers. To help meet demand, the majority of growers were baling their straw after harvest but, as explained in my blog at the time , this led to many questions about the impact on nutrient off take.  This yea...
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Nitrogen – can you manage risk and flex your profitability?

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New season 2019 It is likely we will see a higher starting value for ammonium nitrate fertiliser in the UK this year. Recent announcements on the continent have indicated a rise of at least £20 - £25/tonne is likely. In addition, the granular urea market remains very firm and the pound has weakened; both of which lead industry commentators to predi...
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