ARCHIVE: Fertiliser Manual (RB209)

Fertiliser Application

Accurate and even application of fertilisers is very important in order to maximise the benefits from their use to improve crop yield and quality and profitability. Even where correct decisions have been made on the amount of fertiliser to apply, inaccurate application, uneven spreading or spreading into hedgerows or ditches can cause a range of potentially serious problems, including:

  • Uneven crops.
  • Lodging and disease. 
  • Reduced yields and poor or uneven crop quality at harvest. 
  • More risk of the transfer of nutrients to watercourses at field margins causing nutrient pollution. 
  • More risk of causing botanical changes in hedgerows and field margins.

Spreading fertilisers and organic manures as uniformly and accurately as is practically possible to the cropped area is a requirement in NVZs. Avoiding spreading into the edges of hedgerows and ditches is a requirement of Cross Compliance.

Fertiliser spreaders and sprayers should be regularly maintained and serviced, replacing wornout parts as necessary. Spreaders should be calibrated for rate of application every spring and whenever the fertiliser type is changed. To do this, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. To check spreading uniformity, catch-trays can be used. Ideally this should be done annually or whenever faulty spreading is suspected. Computerised analysis of the data will give the Coefficient of Variation (CV) which is a measure of the non-uniformity of spreading. Where the CV is larger than 15%, significant inaccuracies in fertiliser spreading are occurring. Action should then be taken to improve the performance of the spreader.

More information is given in the leaflet Fertiliser Spreaders – Choosing, Maintaining and Using (Agricultural Industries Confederation), or the new guidance book: Spreading Fertilisers and Applying Slug Pellets (BCPC).

For manure and slurry spreaders, checks should be made for mechanical condition before spreading and for rate of application during spreading.

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