Hundreds of delegates gathered in Kilkenny today for Teagasc’s annual Soil Fertility Conference. John Spink, head of Teagasc’s Environment, Crops and Land Use Programme, opened the proceedings.

He noted that the main focus of the event was to highlight and discuss issues related to good soil fertility management for maximising the productivity of soils in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Presentations have been made by Mark Plunkett, David Wall, Noeleen McDonald, Mike Egan and Susanne Higgins.

Plunkett noted that potassium (K) has a major role to play in the production of quality grass silage. However, over the last decade, the levels of K fertiliser applications on grassland farms have been insufficient to meet K offtakes from grazing and silage systems annually.

Wall touched on the area of spring nutrient advice for grassland farmers. He outlined that fertiliser is an important investment on dairy and drystock farms and represents >25% of total variable production costs.

But, he noted, that trying to plan fertiliser application strategies without field-by-field information on soil fertility levels is impossible and leads to poor return on investment and higher potential nutrient losses to the environment.

Egan took to the stage and discussed the role white clover can play in grassland systems. He commented that white clover can significantly impact on Irish dairy production systems through increased herbage production.

Clover, he said, can also offer the opportunity to strategically reduce inorganic nitrogen input to high stocking rate, grass-based systems – particularly in the second half of the year.