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HomeFarming NewsHow a fertiliser plan could be of benefit to your farm
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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How a fertiliser plan could be of benefit to your farm

Emma Kirkland, a Technologist at CAFRE, looks at developing a fertilising plan, using the CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator.

The preparation of a fertilisation plan, a document which details your proposed organic manure and chemical fertiliser applications for the coming calendar year, is a method of ensuring a targeted approach to nutrient application.

With increasing pressures on Northern Ireland’s agriculture sector to reduce its environmental impact, improve water quality and increase productivity, the application of nutrients, requires careful planning.

The Nutrients Action Programme (NAP) 2019-2022, requires farmers to prepare a fertilisation plan if they intend to apply chemical phosphate fertiliser to grassland or if they plan to apply phosphorus rich (P-rich) manures, or anaerobic digestate to any land.

Farmers can only apply these fertilisers where they identify a crop demand and base on soil analysis.

A P-rich manure is a manure containing more than 0.25kg of total phosphorous per 1kg of total nitrogen.

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Examples of P-rich manures include pig manure, broiler breeder manures, layer manures and duck manure.

Benefits of a fertilisation plan 

The NAP regulations require a fertilisation plan to be prepared under the circumstances previously detailed. However, creating a fertilisation plan has numerous benefits for all farm businesses.

These benefits include:

  • Avoiding the unnecessary application of fertilisers, thereby reducing overall spend on chemical fertiliser;
  • Compliance with NAP;
  • Pollution prevention;
  • Targeting organic manures at low index soils to improve soil nutrient status.

Should you need to prepare a fertilisation plan under NAP, there are four key steps in its preparation;

  1. Firstly, establish the soil P status – using a current soil analysis;
  2. Then, identify the P requirement or crop demand;
  3. Calculate the quantity of organic manure to be applied – considering the nutrient content for each manure type;
  4. Lastly, select the type and quantity of chemical fertiliser needed.

CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator

For non-derogated farms, you can find a video on CAFRE’s YouTube channel, CAFREtv.

It explains the benefits of creating a fertilisation plan and provides step-by-step instructions on how to create the plan using the calculator.

The CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator, available at, is the recommended tool to prepare your fertilisation plan.

Inputting soil analysis results and crop details allows you to identify nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium required by crops.

Perhaps most importantly, using the CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator enables you to determine the correct type and application rate of organic manure and chemical fertilisers, ensuring you do not exceed crop requirements or breach NAP regulations.


Finally, the CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator will produce a report which satisfies NAP requirements for a fertilisation plan. You can update this as required.

Furthermore, you can either save it on your computer electronically or print it off for future reference.

The CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator makes the process quicker, easier and more efficient, saving you both time and money.

The use of its results will protect the environment by reducing the unnecessary application of nutrients and, in particular, chemical phosphate fertilisers.

The information included in a fertilisation plan will differ between non-derogated and derogated farms. Farms operating within a derogation are those with a livestock manure nitrogen loading limit above 170kg nitrogen per hectare per year.

Derogated farms must adopt additional nutrient management measures to ensure that operating at a higher grazing livestock manure limit does not adversely impact water quality.

You can find full details on information required to produce a fertilisation plan for a derogated farm on the DAERA’s website.

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