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Tillage Fertiliser Your Questions AnsweredConditions for winter sowing were ideal in autumn 2020, and as a result, many tillage farmers across the country are in a far better position than at the same time last year. Overall, winter crops are looking good and, hopefully, weather conditions will continue to improve to allow for spring sowing to take place.

Now is the ideal opportunity to plan ahead for the coming season. Analyse your soil test results and plan your fertiliser application in line with the nutrient requirements, to optimise the benefit of each application.

Below are the most frequently asked questions about tillage fertiliser application.

What should I consider for my winter crops?

Following such favourable sowing conditions in autumn 2020, the overall acerage of winter crops has increased. As a result, many crops are more forward than others this spring, which has caused a depletion in Nitrogen (N) reserves, which is visually evident and showing as pale-yellow leaves.

It is important to ensure that crops are sufficiently supplemented with N in order to maintain tiller numbers, especially in winter barley. In addition to N and Sulphur (S) requirements, now is a good time to address Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) demands. When ground conditions are suitable, we recommend applying an NPK+S compound, which will result in an N application of 40 units/acre.

Your fertiliser regime should be developed to match offtakes and the soil fertility status of fields. Generally, winter barley crops require 40 – 50 units of P and 100 units of K. This will vary between two-row and six-row varieties, with slightly higher potash requirements for six rows. Aim to have 75% of N applied to winter barley by March 20th.

Table 1: Typical Nitrogen (N) requirements for winter cereals

  Soil N Index
Crop and Target Yield 1 2 3 4
Winter Wheat (9 tonnes/ha) 210kg/ha 180kg/ha 120kg/ha 80kg/ha
Winter Barley (8 tonnes/ha) 180kg/ha 155kg/ha 120kg/ha 80kg/ha

Source: Teagasc (see P and K requirements in the table below)

Note: the above rates are for moderate yields and increase for additional yield crops.

Why is there a demand for compounds with high levels of K for spring cereals?

The demand for compounds with high levels of K for conventional cereals has increased in recent seasons. This is due to improved varieties, resulting in higher yields and a high amount of biomass produced in a short period of time at the latter stages of crop growth.

To meet this demand, many compounds developed by Target Fertilisers contain over 25% K. When adequate K is applied to cereals, it improves N-use efficiency in the plant. Protein content, grain size, and quality also increase, resulting in fewer screenings at harvest. K has many functions including water transpiration and increased drought resistance in the plant, root growth and improved nutrient uptake, maintaining plant chlorophyll, building cellulose and reducing plant lodging and brackling.

Table 2: P and K requirements for Index 3 soils

Crop and Target Yield P kg/ha K kg/ha
Winter Wheat (9 tonnes/ha) 34 88
Spring Wheat (7.5 tonnes/ha) 28 86
Winter Barley (8.5 tonnes/ha) 32 83
Spring Barley (6.5 tonnes/ha) 25 75
Winter Oats (7.5 tonnes/ha) 28 108
Spring Oats (6.5 tonnes/ha) 25 94

Source: Teagasc

Note: the above rates are for moderate yields and increase for additional yield crops and for Index 1 and 2 soils.

What are the recommended fertiliser requirements for legumes?

Once ground and weather conditions are suitable, one of the first crops to be sown this season will be beans.  Beans are a legume crop, which fix N from the atmosphere. Target Fertilisers have developed a specific compound for spring beans called PULSEXTRA which is 0-9-18 + 6% Calcium and 4% S to increase root nodulation, hence increasing the plant’s ability to fix free N from the atmosphere. Use PULSEXTRA at a recommended rate of three bags/acre on soils that are Index Three for both P & K.

Table 3: General fertiliser recommendations for spring beans

Soil NPK Index N P kg/ha (units/acre) K kg/ha (units/acre)
1 0 50 (40) 125 (100)
2 0 40 (32) 60 (48)
3 0 20 (16) 40 (32)
4 0 0 0


Why is Sulphur an important nutrient for tillage crops?

Most tillage soils are deficient in S, especially in areas of light or sandy soils and soils with low organic matter. This is because sulphate is mobile, water-soluble and easily leached. Sulphur is a constituent element of two amino acids which are the building blocks of protein and is applied at a low level.

Applying S alongside N will increase the N utilisation by the plant. Conventional cereals such as barley, wheat and oats require 15kg/ha. Oilseed rape has a higher S requirement and will respond to applications of 25kg/ha – 35kg/ha. Select from Target Fertilisers’ range of NPK compounds with added S in your general application and follow with Target Fertilisers’ SuperCAN CCF (27N 4S) and/or ASN (26N 14S) to meet your N crop target.

The most effective way to apply S to your tillage crops is within your NPK compound or through N application in the form of Target Fertilisers’ SuperCan CCF 27N 4S. Target Fertilisers includes S in most of their compounds as it is a cost-effective method of increasing N efficiency within the plant.

To view Target Fertilisers’ full range of tillage fertilisers, click here.

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