There is no real difference in fertiliser prices year-on-year, according to Yara business manager for Ireland Nicholas Morrison.

“Both CAN and N, P and K products are as good in value terms now as they were this time 12 months ago,” he said.

“Significant quantities of urea were moved on to farms during February. But the farmer focus has now changed to N, P and K fertilisers. Urea has dropped in price over the past week or so, but the reality is that it is now getting very late in the season to spread it.”

Commenting on the impact of exchange rates on fertiliser prices, Morrison pointed out that a key determinant was the strength, or otherwise, of the euro against the US dollar.

“Ammonia, used in the manufacture of all Nitrogen-based fertilisers, is bought in dollars,” he said.

“At the present time the dollar is strengthening significantly against the euro. Another factor which must be taken into consideration is the stability of the money markets. Fast changing exchange rates create problems for both manufacturers and farmers.”

Morrison confirmed that grassland farmers are now actively requesting sulphur in the fertilisers they sow out throughout the year.

“This is because they are seeing a yield boost by applying it. A typical grassland fertiliser currently in demand is 27: 2.2: 4.2 plus S,” he said.

While confirming that farmers need to have soil test results to justify the purchase of fertilisers containing phosphate, the Yara representative indicated that an application of chemical P will help boost grass growth in the early spring months, irrespective of the ambient soil phosphate levels.

“But farmers must adhere to the regulations. What we are finding is that producers are soil testing up to 20% of their available land area annually, which allows them to assess overall soil pH, P and K levels on the basis of a five year cycle.”

Morrison highlighted the benefits of sowing true compound fertilisers, as opposed to blends.

“Compounds ensure that every landing point receives the full complement of N, P, K and S. This s not the case with blends,” he said.