Thursday, November 15, 2018

CF Fertilisers focuses on getting the best from nitrogen

November 1, 2018 by  
Filed under News & Business

Opportunities to increase nitrogen utilisation efficiency and reduce ammonia emissions will be the main focus of the CF Fertilisers stand at CropTec 2018.

Ongoing attempts to reduce ammonia emissions mean decisions around fertiliser use are becoming increasingly complex, says the company’s arable agronomist Allison Grundy. But growers still need to prioritise productivity and crop response.

“The drive for growers is still to identify the optimum amount of fertiliser they need to deliver target yields and quality and then choose the nitrogen source that will produce the greatest economic return for them in their own individual situation.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean going for the lowest cost fertiliser option but instead choosing the product that will maximise nutrient recovery and deliver the best financial return. Such an approach usually minimises waste and reduces environmental risks, as well.”

Farm manager Andy Rankin says he has looked at everything over the years – but can’t beat what good high quality ammonium nitrate based fertiliser can offer the Westrope Farming company at Woodbridge, Suffolk.

Urea ‘ too risky’

“We’ve never entertained urea as it’s far too risky from a crop utilisation point of view, and liquid fertiliser application simply doesn’t give us the flexibility we need.

“In addition, I don’t think relying on hauling large volumes of liquid across the land just for fertiliser would really tie in with our commitment to paying greater attention to soil structure and minimising the potential damage we do from wheelings.”

Recent trials carried out by the independent research company Armstrong using straight 34.5% nitrogen in the form of Nitram (ammonium nitrate)  produced an extra 0.4t/ha of milling wheat over crops using a urea fertiliser as their only source of nitrogen.

Ms Grundy says: “The trials showed ammonium nitrate outperformed urea with the extra margin over fertiliser costs at the optimum application rates being worth an extra £46/ha.

“Even where urea was used as an early application and then followed by Nitram, there was a 0.25t/ha drop in yield compared with crops given all their nitrogen as ammonium nitrate.

“This means that even using urea in the often thought-of safe early application timing and following it with ammonium nitrate would have cost growers £34/ha over the full ammonium nitrate programme, which over 100ha of wheat adds up to a sizeable £3400 loss in gross margin.


Greater losses

“When comparing a full urea programme to a full ammonium nitrate one, the loss is even greater at £4600 over 100ha.”

Using high quality products like Nitram will also help reduce ammonia emissions – an issue likely to become increasingly important as Defra’s clean air act takes shape, she says.

“The new clean air guidelines clearly state that switching from urea to ammonium nitrate or inhibited urea should be a serious fertiliser consideration for growers because of the lower ammonia emissions associated with ammonium nitrate and, to a lesser extent, those from inhibited urea.

“With ammonium nitrate, nitrogen is directly available to the plant as soon as it is applied, whereas with urea, nitrogen release relies on the complex process known as hydrolysis, which is in turn reliant on interaction with soil bacteria and the environment.”

Defra research programme NT26 – which looked into UK fertiliser use – found that volatilisation reduces the amount of urea nitrogen available to cereal crops by an average of 22% but in the worst case scenario this was recorded at 43% and was even higher in grassland.

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