A 20-year-old agricultural contractor is supplying spent mushroom compost (SMC) to farmers in response to the crisis around rising fertiliser prices.
Eddie Fogarty, Freshford Co. Kilkenny, is studying an advanced certificate in agriculture crops and machinery management at Kildalton Agricultural College.
He lives on his family’s tillage farm and assists with the running of its agricultural contracting firm, Pat Fogarty Agricultural Contracting, which specialises in tillage and silage services.
The proprietor of Eddie Fogarty Agricultural Services, told That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, about his latest venture:
“Last autumn, I listened to many farmers and merchants talk about chemical fertiliser prices.”
“It got me thinking. It made me realise that this could be an opportunity to start supplying something different to farmers. So, I researched many things such as availability, nutrient values and diseases such as botulism, which could be a problem in poultry manure.”
“I tried to identify what would be good for the land that would be worth supplying. After a lot of research and phone calls, I decided on supplying spent mushroom compost,” he added.
Spent mushroom compost
According to a fact sheet from Teagasc, SMC consists of chopped wheaten straw, poultry manure, horse manure and gypsum.
The state agency outlined that SMC is:
- An “excellent” soil conditioner;
- Source of organic matter source;
- A “valuable” source of major and minor nutrients.
In summary, it contains a total of 8.0kg N/tonne, 1.5kg P/t, 8.0kg/t of P and a combined amount of magnesium and calcium as well as manganese, copper and zinc.
However, the body did stress that it is important to test SMC as nutrient contents can vary.
It advises that the application rate of SMC depends on soil’s P and K status and crop nutrient requirements.
The 20-year-old took the delivery of his first load of SMC in December 2021 and took samples to send to a lab to test its contents.
“I was happy with the nutrients in it, which equalled to 3-7-30; it is 35% dry matter. Therefore, it holds moisture in the soil. This can increase yields as the crop will not burn up as quickly.”
The SMC he supplies to farmers contains all the components we listed above and lime.
With this, he believes “you get the best of everything”: dung and also lime. “Customers and I are already seeing great results.”
He explained that farmers could store SMC outdoors – the same way as FYM (farmyard manure) with no cover – or alternatively, they can apply it fresh.
“It is best to spread using a rear discharge spreader for an even and accurate application.”
Collection and delivery services
The Kilkenny native supplies farmers, horticulturists and landscapers, delivering in artic, skip, or tractor and trailer loads directly to their yards or fields. He also offers a collection service – depending on the customer’s preference.
He explained that his SMC supply service is most popular among tillage farmers, followed by dairy farmers. “They feel the use of organic manures will be the future and are also more affordable.”
“Many farmers are thinking about this and flagging this in their discussion groups. Some believe that the EU or government are trying to reduce chemical fertiliser use and reward farmers for increasing their use of organic manures.”
“Some farmers are mixing compost in with their own dung (a 50:50 split), which works out well.”
According to the young entrepreneur, rising fertiliser costs and farmers’ desire to improve soil structure and increase earthworm activity are the main drivers of demand.
“I believe SMC can help the fertiliser crisis. Many grassland farmers spread it as the compost breaks up real fine.”
“The rain will wash it down into the soil. This leaves no fear of silage contamination as long as you spread appropriately, the same as with any manure,” he added.
The Kerry student is hopeful that this service will lay the foundations for his new business, which he hopes to grow further once he completes his studies.
“I believe that more organic methods will become more popular in the years to come with the reduction of chemicals and more use of mechanical weeding and organic manures.”
“Machinery and technology are here to help with more accurate testing and applications of manures and mechanical weeding etc.,” he concluded.
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