Nitrogen (N) fertiliser is a key factor in achieving high levels of agricultural output, in fact it more than doubles production.

This is according to David Wall of Teagasc, who was speaking this week at the Fertilisers Association of Ireland’s spring seminar in Tipperary.

Wall described a reliable, repeatable and economical soil N test as a no-brainer, and a soil test provides a basis for making soil specific N fertiliser recommendations. This, he said, was key to profit.

In terms of the latest advice in applying N fertiliser, the Teagasc expert said there is currently no point in spreading to early.

“The grass is not growing. The soil temperature is south of five degrees and there is more potential to lose the benefits if N fertiliser is spread now.

“We would advise farmers, because of the weather, the rain and the storms, to hold off on spreading because it will be a waste of money. It would be prudent to hold off for a week or 10 days.”

In terms of N management tips for grassland this spring, Wall explained that a strategy is key for maximum seasonal grass covers.

Grass growth will commence once soil temperature reaches five degrees. “There is no point in spread too early when the grass is not growing,” he said matter-of-factly.

In addition, he said 20 to 25 units in advance of expected stock turnout is recommended and it was key to delay application to fields with cold wet soils.,

He also advises to replace N fertiliser with slurry on grazing fields early in the season and to apply slurry for first-cut silage in March/April. “It will mean that you are less exposed to the weather later in the back-end of the year.”

He also stressed that Urea is a good source of N under moist soil conditions in spring, and very simply it is cheaper. “It also works well in moist conditions,” he added.

In conclusion, he advised farmers to stay within total farm fertiliser allowance and spreading dates required under the new nitrates rules.

“The limits have changes and there is a new action programme. The directive is only out a week and many farmers may not be aware of this. There is now more opportunity for spreading Phosphorus than before.”

Fertiliser spreading. Photo O’Gorman Photography