Farmer attitudes to soil fertility and analysis were clearly outlined at the recent the Fertilizer Association of Ireland Spring meeting.

PJ Phelan of Irish Tillage Consultants Association outlined the results of research which looked into this area. The research surveyed 40 dairy farmers, 40 tillage farmers and 40 drystock farmers.

Its results showed that 47 per cent of drystock farmers had not tested any of their land in the Past three years. This compares to 72 per cent of dairy farmers and 62 per cent of tillage farmers who have tested 100 per cent of their land in the past three years.

Farmers were also asked their opinions on the importance of soil sampling. Only 27 per cent of drystock farmers surveyed deemed soil testing essential. This compares to 75 per cent of dairy farmers and 100 per cent of tillage farmers.

Interestingly farmers were also asked if fertiliser applications are programmed to individual fields. The results showed that 29 per cent of tillage farmers always targeting fertiliser applications to specific fields. Results were lower for dairy and drystock farmers, the majority of which only targeted fields sometimes.

On the impact of the nitrates directive on farmers. The survey clearly showed that tillage farmers were impacted the most with dairy and particularly drystock farmers feeling less of an effect from the regulations.

Phelan highlighted that it is clear that all lands give yield responses to fertiliser usage. He underlined the importance of frequent soil analysis. He noted there is substantial potential for improved production on farms with poor soil fertility.

He went on to cite that it is a well-established fact that there is a lot of underutilised land in the country. He said current rental prices for land confirms demand for land exceeds supply.

He stressed that underutilised land can be brought into production with proper management. Phelan said that the cost of bringing semi abandoned understocked land to full yield potential is as low as €143/ha/yr over a ten year period.

Phelan noted there is a clear need incentives to make land available to more productive farmers.

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