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Drive to lower fertiliser costs

PUBLISHED: 09:06 03 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:57 22 October 2010

Fertiliser costs could be cut significantly by applying alternative forms of nitrogen and there could also be environmental benefits, according to early indications of research by Cambridge Arable Technologies.

Fertiliser costs could be cut significantly by applying alternative forms of nitrogen and there could also be environmental benefits, according to early indications of research by Cambridge Arable Technologies.

Replacing the widely used ammonium nitrate with calcined ammonium nitrate (CAN) has the potential to reduce leaching and cut the total number of fertiliser applications.

Trials manager Nick Burton, of Cambridge Arable Technologies, said: "CAN is coated in magnesium, giving a slower release of nutrients which should reduce the amount leached.

"This has an obvious environmental benefit and also means that it may be possible to apply less nitrogen in total, perhaps by cutting the number of applications from three to two, for example.

"Farmers could benefit financially by being able to apply less nitrogen and cutting out a pass would also save expensive fuel as well as labour. There is an additional benefit in that CAN is non-hazardous and can therefore be handled in bulk."

One of this year's CAT trials has been set up to see if this potential benefit works in practice. Plots have received a range of applications of either AN or CAN and yield will be compared after harvest.

In the meantime, the trial looks promising, with crop growth and colour being similar under the different regimes, as members of CAT will see on Wednesday, June 7, at Great Wilbraham, near Cambridge.

In another practical trial the importance of sprayer nozzle selection for blackgrass control has been investigated, using a specially manufactured mini spray boom.

"Spray trials work is normally carried out with the tractor travelling at 4km per hour and at an application rate of 200 litres per hectare. This is simply not how farmers operate commercially and so we set up a system which we feel is closer to farm practice. We have tested four popular nozzles and we think farmers will be interested to know that one of these, the Hawk, is more versatile that we had originally thought and works well with a range of sprays used to control blackgrass," said Mr Burton.

Non-members may attend the members' day by prior arrangement with Richard Fenwick. Call 01954 204837. CAT annual membership fee is £95.


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