Winter cereals: Fertiliser needed as soon as possible

The weather of the past few months means that many winter crops have not received any fertiliser and while crops may be thin and struggling, their colour has held fairly well up until recently.

Forecasts now show a break in the wet weather and as soon as ground is ready for travel farmers will be eager to get this job done. Some have been lucky enough to get out already, but many have not as they wait for land to dry.

As always, fertiliser should be applied according to the soil test and yield potential.

At this stage, if phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) have not been applied, they should go out with the first nitrogen (N) application.

Farmers should go out with the first split as normal. If crops are struggling the decision to cut back on N can be made later in the season.

How much N can I apply?

While some farmers may be reducing the level of N that they apply to winter cereals, it is important to know what the N index outlines. The table is outlined below according to index and crop.

Winter barley crops in index 1 may receive 180kg of N/ha. This figure can increase by 20kg/ha for every tonne achieved over 8.5t/ha. Proof of these yields must be available.

Winter wheat crops on index 1 soils can receive 210kg/ha. Where proof of yields over 9t/ha are available, farmers may apply an extra 20kg of N/ha for every extra tonne achieved.

Winter oat crops on index 1 soils can receive 145kg of N/ha. 20kg of N/ha can be applied where proof of yields over 7.5t/ha are available.

Cutting back on inputs

However, if crops have low plant numbers or have just one or two tillers then the economics of applying a full rate of N to these crops needs to be considered.

Also Read: Plant counts a help in making agronomic decisions

As crops grow in the next few weeks, farmers will be able to put a better gauge on where yield potential lies and may adjust rates accordingly.