Happy New Year
We are starting a new year and all the exciting possibilities are before us. Many areas suffering from seriously dry conditions have had rain and that is good for agriculture.
Our business is fertiliser and so one might think that we would advocate for farmers to just keep increasing the applications of our product but that has never been our advice. Quite the contrary in fact, the amount of fertiliser that is wasted in this country is huge and it concerns us greatly.
Long before environmental issues became a public concern we could see the writing on the wall and we are amazed that it took so long to become a public issue. Now we are amazed at how long it is taking for people to take remedial action. The remedy is, as we have always advised our clients, to apply fertiliser in only the quantities that the plant can take up and use no more and no less.
Wasted fertiliser is wasted money and large amounts at that. We absolutely understand farmers being offended and hurt at the accusations of being responsible for nutrient runoff and the degradation of our waterways. The way to combat that is to change the fertiliser programme and at the same time save money. We cannot simply apply more fertiliser and hope that it will give us more grass or crop yield, those days are over and now it is a delicate balance which we have to observe rigorously. There are not many solutions that have a win win outcome but this is one of them. Less fertiliser and less cost but the same amount of grass produced…that has to be good business surely. To be brutally honest, if you are one of those who has not changed your fertiliser plan in recent times we strongly advise you to take action and phone us.
Our representatives are trained and fully conversant with nutrient budgets and the need to eliminate nutrient loss. They are as keen as you are to ensure that every dollar spent is a productive one.
From the Team at Fertilizer New Zealand
Soil and Pasture Nitrate after a dry spell
Farmers are aware of a flush of grass after a dry spell but reasons for this rapid growth is often over looked. Pasture growth stops during drought, but mineralisation of soil Organic Matter continues to release Nitrate-N into the soil. The effect is that soil Nitrate-N levels accumulate, and pasture utilisation of soil N has slowed or stopped depending on the severity of the drought.
When drought breaking rain finally arrives, growth of surviving pasture will resume utilising the accumulation of soil Nitrate-N. Post drought pasture grass growth is typically lush with a high Nitrate-N content, very high Protein, high Potassium and low Calcium compared to dairy cow dietary requirements.
The effect of summer drought that is severe enough to cause the grass to ‘brown-off’ and go dormant is that root carbohydrate reserves are depleted, and root mass is reduced. Ideal ‘post drought’ management of ryegrass should allow pastures to grow to ‘2.5 to 3 leaf stage’, or about 30 days growth before grazing. The effect of this grazing interval is to allow the pasture grass to start to replenish root reserves, minimise the risk of Nitrate-N toxicity to livestock and to provide appropriate Protein, Calcium and Potassium for good feed conversion efficiency.
Farmers are short of feed for livestock, so when pasture growth resumes, the tendency is to feed livestock on fresh re-growth. Pasture that is grazed before the ‘2 leaf stage’ will lack vigour and ultimately be less productive. Early grazing of ‘post drought’ pasture growth will significantly increase the risk of Nitrate-N toxicity and excessively high Protein and Potassium in addition to low Calcium will increase the risk of metabolic stress.
Where there is no alternative to early grazing of recovering pasture, feeding of supplements that have a high carbohydrate and/or fibre content will improve feed conversion efficiency and reduce the risk of metabolic stress to stock. Submit samples of pasture immediately prior to the first grazing post drought for a Nitrate-N test, this will provide useful information for livestock grazing management in addition to indicating when pasture grass may start to become responsive to N fertiliser.
Application of N fertiliser to pasture recovering from drought may not produce a growth response for about 2 weeks after substantial rainfall because accumulated soil Nitrate.
Early application of N fertiliser could increase the risk of Nitrate-N poisoning.