Machinery dealers are reporting increasing interest in using liquid rather than solid fertilisers. So what should farmers bear in mind when considering the switch?
Farm infrastructure will play a part in whether to go for solid or liquid fertiliser, as well as labour considerations, says Darren Glegg, Yara business manager, liquid and foliar products.
He commented: “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. It is about weighing up the best system for your farm.”
A key benefit of using liquid fertilisers is being able to apply fertiliser more accurately at field edges, says Mr Glegg.
“This can be up to 20% of the field, in some cases,” he remarks.
Business as normal for Yara
With some fertiliser manufacturers finding it difficult to source product currently, Mr Glegg says Yara is “carrying on as normal”.
“Our fertiliser is produced in Holland and Germany. We are also well placed to advise customers on application equipment, rates, timings and agronomy.”
Meanwhile, 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, Chandlers’ managing director Gavin Pell, outlines.
He adds: “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.”
Applying liquid fertiliser
Cliff Buck, technical sales manager at Knight Farm Machinery, says that even those farmers planning to continue using solid fertilisers, but who are buying a new crop sprayer want it to have the ability 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.
If not cared for, the sprayer will deteriorate faster than when only used for ag chem, as Mr Buck highlights.
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 and either multi-stream nozzles or dribble bars are popular choices.
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), adjust the control system.
Many growers are considering a fast fill pump to increase the speed of filling the sprayer, he says.
“It is also important to have the ability to pump out any remaining sprayer contents into the storage tank.”
For farmers switching to liquid fertilisers, application accuracy is essential, and Billericay Farm Services, which specialises in applicators can help farmers choose the right one.
Director, Simon Nichols, explains: “Our liquid fertiliser applicator selection allows for consistency, and accuracy and enables you to achieve professional and productive results, no matter what the task.”
Midlands Machinery Show
Visitors to the Midlands Machinery Show in November can see a wide range of sprayers and nozzle options and speak to experts about the best choice for their farm.
Chandlers will showcase broadcasters from KRM Bogballe, mounted sprayers from Berthoud, trailed sprayers from Chafer and self-propelled sprayers from Fendt, including the Rogator 655, says Mr Pell.
There will also be a considerable line-up of other equipment from various manufacturers, with over 210 trade stands already booked, an increase of 20% on previous years.
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