Machinery dealers are seeing increased interest in utilising liquid fertiliser, so what should farmers bear in mind when making the switch from granular products?
Infrastructure plays a part in making the decision, as does labour considerations, explained Darren Glegg, business manager at Yara.
“It is about efficiency. Machinery has got bigger. When farmers are making such a major capital investment, they want to get the most out of it and be able to apply liquid fertiliser as well as ag chem. With a sprayer, just one person is needed whereas with solid fertiliser an additional person is needed to bring bags to the field.”
While some farms may have shed space for a fertiliser spreader, liquid fertiliser tanks may be more convenient for others, he added. “It is about weighing up the best system for your farm.”
A key benefit is an increase in accuracy, especially at field edges which can be up to 20% of the field in some cases.
Mr Glegg added that Yara is not seeing the supply issues of some manufacturers. “Our fertiliser is produced in Holland and Germany. We are also well placed to advise customers on application equipment, rates, timings and agronomy.”
Visitors to the Midlands Machinery Show in November will be able to see a wide range of sprayers and nozzle options and will be able to speak to experts about the best choice for their farm.
“Applying liquid fertiliser is not like applying plant protection products. It is applied with a spray nozzle producing a much larger droplet size, which is less affected by wind and weather conditions,” said Chandlers managing director Gavin Pell.
“This means it can be applied in a wider range of weather conditions than would be possible with granular fertiliser.
“If soil is bone dry, with solid fertiliser you have to wait until it rains before it is taken up. You can also dose more accurately with liquid fertiliser and there is less likelihood of leaching, meaning less fertiliser is potentially wasted.”
According to Cliff Buck, technical sales manager at Knight Farm Machinery, even farms which are continuing to use solid fertilisers want their new sprayers to be able to apply liquid fertiliser.
“This means that somewhere in the back of their mind they are thinking about liquid fertiliser as an option for the future.”
Most crop sprayers can apply liquid fertilisers; however, growers should be aware that the liquid is abrasive and, if not cared for, the sprayer will deteriorate faster than when only used for ag chem, said Mr Buck.
“It needs to be thoroughly washed down, ideally every time fertiliser is applied, paying particular attention to boom joints, hydraulic cylinders and areas where liquid fertiliser can sit. It is also important to fit the correct nozzles. Either multi-stream nozzles or dribble bars are popular choices,” he explained.
“Another consideration is the density of the liquid fertiliser when using an auto application rate control system on the sprayer. If the fertiliser density is anything other than one (water) the control system needs to be adjusted.”
Many growers are considering a fast fill pump to increase the speed of filling the sprayer, he said. “It is also important to have the ability to pump out any remaining sprayer contents into the storage tank.”
Farms switching to liquid fertilisers should look carefully at application accuracy according to Billericay Farm Services. “Our liquid fertiliser applicator selection allows for consistency and accuracy and enables you to achieve professional and productive results, no matter what the task,” said director Simon Nichols.
The Midlands Machinery Show takes place at the Newark Showground on the 16th and 17th of November. NRoSO and BASIS points are available for attending. For more information go to www.midlandsmachineryshow.com/