Investing in Liquid Fertiliser Quickly Pays Dividends
The advantages of liquid fertiliser over a granular system are numerous and well documented, especially in terms of cost-effectiveness, application accuracy, environmental benefits and logistics. However, switching to liquids often coincides with upgrading the farm sprayer, which whilst at first might appear a costly investment, will definitely pay dividends.
Andrew Smurthwaite runs the Rosebery Estate in Edinburgh, a 3360ac farming business that supports a traditional cereal rotation plus grass, forage rye and kale. Three years ago a decision to introduce OMEX liquid fertiliser as part of the management strategy required an investment to purchase a new sprayer.
The new sprayer is employed to apply agrochemicals, liquid fertiliser and foliar sprays, covering over 40,000ac/yr and putting about 1100 hours on the clock. Although the sprayer comes with a hefty price tag initially, by the time it is replaced after four seasons Mr Smurthwaite estimates that it will have cost about £1/ac to run it.
“To fully utilise the sprayer means being organised,” he explains. “It must be up to the job, which means reliable. We can’t afford downtime. In the wet when we can’t spray pesticides we can still apply liquid fertiliser which means we can be much more flexible.”
The farming business extends 40 miles from end to end which means strategically locating 10 liquid fertiliser storage tanks – eight 50m3 and two 30m3 bunded tanks. When a tank is empty a key code is given to the Moseley Transport delivery driver who fills it up.
Mr Smurthwaite says that 10 liquid nitrogen storage tanks is the equivalent to two large storage sheds and when all the tanks are full he has at least a third of the total nitrogen requirement needed for the spring.
“Spraying is now a one man operation, sometimes two men at busy times,” he explains. “But there are so many advantages to a liquid system over a granular equivalent. Key is the fact that the storage tanks mean we can utilise our own sheds more effectively for storing grain and over wintered animals.
“There are no bags to get rid of either which is an additional cost of about 20p each and also to move bags about costs £1.50 each. Liquid fertilisers are much more accurately applied at 36m. We have several environmental schemes so it’s important not to apply in areas where fertiliser is not permitted. It’s virtually impossible not to spread a solid fertiliser into hedgerows and ditches and they can’t be applied accurately at 36m,” says Mr Smurthwaite