One of the challenges faced by many dairy farmers is how to best utilise the valuable nutrients in slurry and manure when growing maize silage.

Although there is no doubt about the value of organic manures as a fertiliser, particularly with today’s high nitrogen prices, there are practical considerations about the best application timing, particularly when it comes to crop establishment.

One recommended solution is to use a tailored starter fertiliser to establish the crop, with organic matter applied later in the season when plants and the soil are better able to utilise it without scorching or runoff; that's where Timac Agro comes in.

This was the approach adopted by Edward and Joe Kidner of Union Farm near Chippenham in Wiltshire. They grow around 60 hectares of maize each year across their 200-hectare farm, for feeding to their 120 head dairy heard as winter silage.

Somerset County Gazette: Alan Holder, technical sales specialist for west Wiltshire, Timac Agro UKAlan Holder, technical sales specialist for west Wiltshire, Timac Agro UK (Image: Timac Agro)

Last year their contractor applied Physiostart at drilling. Physiostart is a microgranular fertiliser from Timac which is particularly suitable for maize and grassland crops. Because of the localised nature of the application, usage rates can be as low as 20kg/ha.

“The cost was very favourable compared to other fertiliser products last year,” explains Joe. “But perhaps the biggest benefit for us it, because it is applied at drilling, we didn’t need to tie up a telehandler for the day moving fertiliser which saved a lot of labour.”

The targeted nature of Physiostart is good not only for the bottom line, but also the environment explains Timac technical sales specialist Alan Holder.

“Because it is a microgranule containing protected ammoniacal nitrogen, which is placed next to the seed, you get greater root absorption of the nutrients and you aren’t overloading the soil with nitrogen that may not be taken up by the plant and which will then leech out into the environment,” he says.

“It also supports increased germination rates and increases root growth and development.”

Because of the close proximity of the microgranule to the seed, the elements contained in the fertiliser are immediately available to the plant and can be easily absorbed by the young root systems.

The starter fertiliser contains everything the young plant needs for strong establishment, including soluble phosphorous, protected nitrogen, sulphur, calcium and zinc for increased fertiliser efficiency, so that subsequent applications of synthetic fertiliser are not required.

“Particularly on slightly acid soils like those farmed by the Kidner’s, you don’t want to be using supplementary applications of phosphate which can be locked up. Instead, you can just wait and then go in and apply you own organic matter when conditions are suitable.”

One of the big benefits of this starter fertiliser, is that it allowed Edward and Joe to maximise the inherent value of the nitrogen in the organic matter they are producing, which provides significant cost savings over traditional programmes based purely on synthetic fertilisers.”

In trials, Physiostart has been shown to increase maize yields compared to the recommended rate of 18-46 di-ammonium phosphate (DAP). In another set of field trails, the product delivered maize silage yield improvements of up to 6t/ha compared to the control treatment.

Mr Holder believes that farmer perceptions about the application of microgranular fertilisers may be preventing some people from using Physiostart.

“There is a common misconception that, in order to apply microgranular fertilisers, you need a specific microgranular applicator,” he says.

“However, many new drills from manufacturers including Monosem, Horsch, Kverneland and Amazone – to name a few – can apply Physiostart alongside the seed, simply by adjusting the appropriate settings on the drill.”

The Kidners have been very happy with the results, and he comments that with the hot dry conditions last summer, the maize was short and very good quality.

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