Options for overcoming high fertiliser prices

Farmers should take a measured approach when considering fertiliser use this year following an unprecedented rise in prices since June 2020.

Graham Ragg, Mole Valley Farmers’ Senior Agronomist, with over 40 years’ experience in the fertiliser business, says there was no right or wrong answer for fertiliser use this year. “Every farm is different and differing strategies need to be carefully considered for short, medium and long-term effects on the business. A considered and measured approach is needed rather than a knee jerk reaction,” he warned.

Graham outlined some of the various strategies and on-farm scenarios which could be adopted this season.


Strategies for overcoming the current unprecedented rise in fertiliser costs


1. Replace forage with brought-in feed

  • Decide not to buy as much fertiliser or don’t buy any at all
  • If you have poor grass/low pH/ low grass utilisation – worth considering?
  • Potentially a vicious circle of less forage leading to higher feed costs

2. Cut back livestock numbers

  • Grow more crops to feed on your farm, e.g. more cereals
  • Improve poor-performing grassland and make use of better grasses and clover
  • Reduce purchased feed
  • Use slurry additives to retain more nitrogen from slurry
  • Soil test for pH, phosphate and potash and correct deficiencies

3. Farmer who bought early fertiliser – keep the same strategy in the short-term

  • Use the same amount of fertiliser on first cut silage ground as previous years - don’t cut back on first cut fertiliser or acreage
  • Soil test and correct nutrient shortfalls
  • Consider expanding slurry storage and use a slurry additive
  • Use more clover in the mid-to-long-term and reseed where needed with better species of grass

4. Stop growing crops/grass down everything

  • Buy less bought-in nitrogen
  • Consider herbal leys or new reseeds
  • Introduce more clover/measure grassland performance
  • Soil test/measure soil reserves
  • Formulate a medium-to-long-term strategy in case high fertiliser prices remain
  • Possible risk of buying in extra feed if grass becomes short

5. Start growing more maize/green crop/soil improvers

  • To utilise slurry more, calculate the value of slurry and farmyard manure (FYM)
  • Low fertiliser usage crops or nutrient builders/soil improvers
  • Increases yield of milk or livestock performance
  • Consider overseeding grass with clover
  • Soil test for nutrient status
  • Make more use of slurry and FYM

6. Do opposite to everything else

  • Expand livestock numbers – generate more income
  • Keep stock tighter and on better grazing
  • Reduce feed purchases – greater efficiency from feed
  • Produce more from forage – forage for profit
  • Improve pastures/pH/N use efficiency/management skills

7. Buy or rent more acres

  • Become less intensive – reduce fertiliser input
  • Keep more livestock, expand output and generate more income
  • Spread your fixed costs over more acres
  • Expand the business for future generations

Fertiliser prices have been a major talking point over the last six months. However, the positive outlook is both milk and cereal forward prices have increased significantly and some would argue fertiliser can still be afforded and used at similar rates as last year.

We must realise what a vital input fertiliser is on your own farm and for world food production. It is estimated nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers are responsible for 50% of the world’s food production and with the world population increasing by one billion every 15 years, can we really afford to cut back on fertiliser inputs?

World demand for fertiliser continues to grow by 2% a year as other countries governments realise they must try and feed their own populations!

Whatever your circumstance, Mole Valley Farmers is happy to discuss the best option on your farm.

Any customers who would like to discuss the best option for their farm
or require some of the inputs, please contact the Seed Line on 01769 576232