The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that fertiliser sales have decreased by 23% in 2022 when the first nine months of the fertiliser year (1 October to 30 June) are compared.

Those figures display a 19% decrease in nitrogen sales, but more worryingly sales of phosphorus and potassium have declined by 31% and 30% respectively.

The application of lime to soils low in pH and an increase in the use of clover have no doubt helped farmers to make this reduction in fertiliser nitrogen use.

However, failing to maintain P and K levels at optimum levels will have a negative impact on production in the long term and is not sustainable.

While nitrogen is a source of nitrous oxide and the reduction in nitrogen fertiliser use will help to reduce emissions the main driver behind this reduction is most likely price as the price of nitrogen fertiliser has quadrupled in less than two years.

Protected urea

Very positively from an emissions reduction perspective, sales of protected urea have increased by 47% (8,017t of nutrient nitrogen) and now make up 16% of total nitrogen fertiliser sales. Protected urea prevents ammonia loss from urea, while a switch from calcium ammonium nitrate to protected urea reduces nitrous oxide emissions.

Protected urea so far this year accounts for 37.5% of total urea sales. The target set out by the Department of Agriculture in Ag Climatise is to have 100% of urea sold in protected form by the end of 2023.