Catchment Sensitive Farming: Practical Tips

Practical Tip: Nutrient management plans

There are a number of different sources of guidance for nutrient management planning. As a general rule plans should follow a recognised fertiliser recommendation system such as RB209 (or the electronic version PLANET) and be prepared in conjunction with a FACTS (Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme) qualified person.

If you have chosen the nutrient management plan option under the Entry Level Scheme of Environmental Stewardship you will have to:

  • Maintain an up-to-date soil analysis. Soils must be analysed for pH, P, K, and Mg every three to five years, depending on the cropping system. Use the results to adjust inputs of lime and phosphate, potash and magnesium nutrients. The Rural Development Service have produced technical notes on how to carry out soil sampling and analyse the results.
  • Assess the nutrient requirement of the crop using a recognised fertiliser recommendation system.
  • Assess the nutrient supply from organic manure - guidance is available from the MANNER (Manure Nitrogen Evaluation Routine) Decision Support System. Or from the "Managing livestock manures" booklets. 
  • Calculate the need for fertiliser nutrients by deducting the contribution from organic manures from the crop nutrient requirement.
  • Spread organic manures and fertilisers as accurately and uniformly as possible. Equipment should be in good working order and recently calibrated.
  • Keep clear field records of cropping, organic manure and fertiliser applications. This will aid future decisions on nutrient management and demonstrate the practical outcome of the plan.
  • Update the plan at the start of each cropping year.

It is also recommended that fertiliser applications are timed to minimise the risk of loss of nutrients (e.g. avoid autumn N applications and early spring timings to drained clay soils).

Guidance on nutrient management planning is also available through the LEAF audit and for AIC members in their publication "A Whole Farm Nutrient Plan".

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