Farmers using traditional fertilisers are not maximising nutritional efficiencies, and could substantially boost yields by adopting more up-to-date technology.
According to Cyril Cappe, General Manager at Timac Agro UK, single super phosphate (SSP), diammonium phosphate (DAP) and triple super phosphate (TSP) have been around for decades – and there has been very little innovation in the fertiliser industry since then. Until now. “We’ve been doing a lot of research into making more efficient use of inputs to increase gross margins at farm level,” explains Mr Cappe. “This includes working with more than 100 universities and institutes around the globe, including Rothamsted Research, where we do both laboratory and field work.”
One of the results is TOP PHOS, a unique phosphate fertiliser with a different chemical formula to previous fertiliser compounds. “It has all the benefits of being water soluble, like TSP or DAP, but is protected against lock up in both alkaline and acidic soils. This means it remains in a usable form for the plant, unlike other fertilisers which become locked up if the pH departs from 6.5-7,” explains Mr Cappe.
The fertiliser also contains a biological activity booster – to release phosphorous to the plant – and stimulates root growth to increase nutrient uptake. “In a recent wheat trial, TOP PHOS increased yields by 0.76t/Ha to 10.81t/Ha, when compared to TSP,” he says. The protein content also increased from 11.4% to 11.6%, due to better nutrient usage by the plant, including nitrogen. Similar results were seen in grassland, with yields over two silage cuts increasing by more than 0.5t/ha of dry matter, to nearly 4.2t/ha, when comparing TOP PHOS against SSP.
Another technology, which is already in use in the UK, is PHYSACTIV – included in a range of phosphate and potash fertilisers to increase biological activity and nutrient release. Containing seaweed complex and Calcimer, it optimises the pH for bacteria and stimulates root hair development to improve uptake efficiencies.
“In trials, PHYSACTIV increased potassium, calcium and magnesium levels in cereals by 25%, 30% and 20%, respectively, to almost 55mg, 15mg and 5mg/plant,” explains Mr Cappe. At tillering, wheat took up 27% more phosphorous and 9% more potassium, against the control of 100%.
Timac Agro UK recently brought together more than 80 staff to explain the physical benefits of phosphorous in plants, including drought resistance, root development, flowering, transport of nitrates and activation of enzymes for photosynthesis. “We want all our staff to understand the complex interactions between different soil attributes – like pH – and how these technologies can be used to yield substantial benefits on farm, so they can offer tailored recommendations in the field,” says Mr Cappe.
“We will be at the Cereals Event, explaining these benefits. At the end of the day it’s all about making a difference at farm margin level. Rather than talking about using more inputs – which may be wasted through insufficient uptake – we’re talking about efficiencies. This is about growing crops in a sustainable way, both financially and from an environmental perspective.”