The Fertilizer Association of Ireland (FAI) has urged farmers to soil sample their farm, use organic manures efficiently and calculate fertiliser requirements carefully.

The advice comes as the association states that on 22 February 2021, gas was quoted at $5.55/MMBtu by Trading View. This week, that figure was five times higher at $29.62/MMBtu.

Natural gas accounts for approximately 80% of the cost of ammonia, which is a key ingredient in the production of nitrogen fertilisers such as CAN and urea.

In a statement released to the Irish Farmers Journal, the FAI noted that Europe produces over 70% of the 15.6m tonnes of CAN produced globally and is heavily reliant on natural gas imports, which are driving the price of CAN.

High compound prices

The association attributed high compound prices to strong prices for muriate of potash (MOP) and reduced supply of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) and mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP).

"High MOP prices have partly been driven by political issues in Belarus, which has resulted in some countries imposing sanctions against the import of potash from that country," it said.

"Belarus accounts for 20% of the global 70.6m tonnes of potash production. Exports of urea, DAP and MAP from China ceased on 15 October in an effort by that country to protect supplies for their own domestic market.

"With gas price and political issues outside our control, it is important to look at the elements we can control for the coming fertiliser usage season."


Among these practices are the following:

  • Soil sampling – carry out in December and January, testing for soil pH, P and K.
  • Create a nutrient management plan using these soil test results.
  • Lime application where required – following soil test results.
  • Target the use of slurry and organic manures using your soil tests and nutrient management plan.
  • Include sulphur in nitrogen applications. This can increase efficiency and in turn crop yield.
  • The FAI has a handy P and K calculator on its website. By inputting details of the target crop yield, grassland stocking rate, concentrate feed usage and slurry application rates, the calculator will provide advice on fertiliser application rates.

    The calculator can be downloaded here.

    The effect of low soil pH

    On grassland at a soil pH of 5.5, the dry matter (DM) yield per hectare can be reduced by 3t DM/ha. At a price of €181/t, it is a loss of €543/ha, according to figures released by the FAI.

    This is due to a reduction in nutrient utilisation. At a soil pH of 5.5, this equates to approximately 77% of the nitrogen being utilised, 48% of phosphorous and 77% of potash.

    Organic manures

    Slurry and organic manures should be targeted at fields with low P and K indices.

    Nitrogen efficiency can also be increased by applying slurry with a trailing shoe. Using a trailing shoe, 1,000 gallons of cattle slurry per acre provides nine units of N/acre, compared with six units of N/acre using a splash plate.

    Spring application of slurry can also result in reduced nitrogen losses. P and K values of cattle slurry are approximately five units of P/ac and 32 units of K/ac.

    Concluding its statement, the association noted: "It is difficult to say how long these high energy prices and sanctions on Belarus will last, so it is important to assess all the elements within our control. By doing this, we increase our nutrient use efficiency, which is good for both our pocket and the environment."