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Reducing input costs with nutrient management

Last updated: 08 Sep 2021

A good nutrient management plan can help you maximise organic materials and reduce reliance on often expensive bagged fertilizer.  Manures (slurry, farmyard manure or poultry manure) are an important resource, not only could reduce your bagged fertiliser costs, they provide valuable organic matter that will improve the condition of your soil and help crop growth and performance.

In the example below we show how the use of manures could dramatically reduce input costs. 

Dairy Cows Clotton Hall Dairy_66174

Example farm 

In this case, the farm is a mixed dairy and arable farm with150 cows and followers on 80 ha of grass, the farm has 110 ha of spring-sown crops. 

The slurry and farmyard manure produced alongside the imported biosolids were used on the grass and spring sown crop. All of the manures were applied in the spring or on the grass mid-season.

  • 50 ha of spring barley
  • 35 ha of spring rape
  • 25 ha of forage maize

The calculations below show the cost of bagged fertilizer for the whole farm, and the potential value of manures which could be applied. The cost of fertiliser for the crops has been valued as £36,403 and use of the manures (both produced on farm and imported) would reduce this by £8,236. This shows, by maximizing manures farmers are able to make significant savings. 

Fertilizer

This section highlights the total cost if bagged fertilizer alone was used on the farm. Rate of application was based on AHDB’s RB209, and for the purpose of this exercise nutrient costs were assumed at £0.66/kg N, £0.55/kg P2O5 and £0.40 /kg K2O.

Rate of nutrient application (based on RB209) were:

Nutrients recommended (kg/ha)

Crop

ha

N

P2O5

K2O

Dairy/heifer (150 cows)

80

240

75

70

Spring barley

50

140

105

95

Spring rape

35

120

60

50

Maize

25

100

55

175

The cost of these nutrients, if applied as manufactured fertiliser, would be:

Nutrient cost (£)

N

P2O5

K2O

Total

Dairy/heifer (150 cows)

12672

3300

2240

18212

Spring barley

4620

2888

1900

9408

Spring rape

2772

1155

700

4627

Maize

1650

756

1750

4156

Total

21714

8099

6590

36403

Manures produced and imported

Amounts of manures produced and imported were:

t or m3

Slurry

1000

FYM

400

Biosolids

200

These manures were allocated to crops and provided nutrients as follows:

Manure

rate t/ha

Manure nutrients kg/ha

Nutrient applied kg

Crop

N

P2O5

K2O

N

P2O5

K2O

Dairy/heifer (150 cows)

Slurry

10

10

12

25

800

960

2000

Spring barley

Biosolids

10

16

110

4

800

5500

200

Spring rape

FYM

11

7

35

103

245

1225

3605

Maize

Slurry

8

8

10

20

200

250

500

The values in the table above are crop available N (spring applied, incorporated in arable areas) and total P2O5 and K2O.

The nutrient value of these manures (using fertiliser values above) was:

Nutrient value (£)

N

P2O5

K2O

Total

528

528

800

1856

528

3025

80

3633

162

674

1442

2277

132

138

200

470

1350

4364

2522

8236

Visit our Tools page for more information on nutrient and manure management.