Share your ideas and experience of how to improve nutrient efficiency and reduce dependence on artificial fertilisers

What routes do we have to improving nutrient management?

  • Reducing nutrient demand
    • grow crops & varieties with low nutrient requirements
  • minimise losses from soil
    • cover crops to reduce leaching of nitrate over-winter
    • minimise soil runoff
  • Make the most of manures
  • Estimate nutrient requirements, accounting fully for crop demand and nutrient availability
  • Apply fertilisers accurately
  • improve fertiliser recovery
  • consider using Enhanced Efficiency Fertilisers
  • Consider foliar nutrition


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Foliar sprays can be more efficient than feeding crops via the soil: they can be more targeted, cheaper, and less environmentally damaging than soil-mediated crop nutrition.    But this is not always so: can foliar nutrition be made reliable ... to support sustainable crop nutrition?

Tell us how you are improving your soils. Share useful resources, organisations and initiatives.

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Plants need around 12 essential mineral nutrients to grow: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Potassium (K), Magnesium (Mg), Sulphur (S), Calcium (Ca), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Zinc (Zn), Copper (Cu), Boron (B) and Molybdenum (Mo). Crop requirements differ hugely between elements, from 100s kg/ha of N & K, 10s kg/ha P, S, & Ca, 100s g/ha Fe, Mn, Zn & Cu, to 1s g/ha B & Mo.  Crops also differ inherently in these requirements due both to their genetics and their growing conditions.  Crops need these nutrients primarily to form and operate the photosynthetic tissues that convert solar energy and water into edible (or otherwise useful) energy.  Subsequently crops redistribute some nutrients from their leaves and stems to their generative organs, according to the nutritional requirements of crop re-establishment e.g. the nutrient needs of seedlings.  Depending on which crop components are harvested and removed, crop nutrients are either exported and used in feeds or foods, or are returned to the soil to form soil organic matter.   

Phosphorus (P) is an essential nutrient for both plants and animals, playing a key role in energy transfer as a major component of ATP. It is also vital in DNA. For full capture & conversion of solar energy, crop canopies need 30-40 kg/ha P. Crop species redistribute most of this P (~85%; more than for any other nutrient) to their seeds during canopy senescence, where it is stored as phytate. Plants appear to do this because, until their roots proliferate, plant seedlings are highly sensitive to P shortages.

Farmers, advisors and researchers working together to understand and improve crop nutrition on-farm

Analysing grain for all 12 nutrients can be an effective tool to improve nutrient management, providing information on crop nutrient status and nutrient offtakes.  It can indicate whether your crops are getting hold of the nutrients they need, or whether you can save on future fertiliser use.

Review conducted by ADAS and funded by AHDB into how farmers should respond to the high fertiliser (& grain) prices experienced in 2022.

Some symbiotic or free-living microorganisms can fix inert di-nitrogen (N) from the air into reactive organic nitrogenous compounds.  Most biological N fixation (BNF) in farming systems occurs in the root nodules of legumes where rhizobium bacteria take photosynthates from the plant in exchange for fixing atmospheric N and returning ammonium or amides which the plant uses to form amino acids, proteins, etc.   Plants need more N than any other nutrient and N commonly limits plant growth in many ecosystems. 

NRM’s GrainCheck service was launched in 2020 following several years of work with ADAS on the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) project and to coincide with the RB209 recommendation for routine grain analysis. The test is suitable for cereals, oilseeds and pulses and should be interpreted alongside soil and tissue test results to give a full understanding of the effectiveness of crop nutrition programmes.

Share information, knowledge, resources and experience on how we can improve crop perfomance (yield, quality and profitability) whilst reducing reliance on input, reducing impacts and improving environmental performance.

YEN Nutrition brings together those wanting to achieve more precise crop nutrition.  High fertiliser prices now make this vital.  Assuming that 'crops know best' engagement in YEN Nutrition starts by benchmarking grain nutrients to show those that were limiting (or excessive) for each crop.

Regenerative farming looks to optimise the use of the ecological system and environment, in order to benefit from the natural ecosystem services that they provide.

A range of products is available; these claim to enable more efficient nutrient uptake, so allow less nutrient to be used.

Nitrogen is required annually by most crops (except pulses) to achieve yield and quality. Judging how much N to apply is a key part of nutrient management.

Practical sustainable farming regardless of labels.

Nitrogen Use Efficiency is a widely used term increasingly discussed across industry and with farmers. However it can mean different things to different people.

Fertilisers, especially nitrogen, give some of the biggest environmental impacts of any inputs, from both their manufacture and their application.  A range of innovative approaches are being developed to reduce the energy costs, greenhouse gas emmissions and waste associated with the production of fertilisers.

Potash Development Association (PDA) is an independent organisation, formed in 1984, to provide technical information and advice in the UK and Ireland. It is supported by ICL UK Sales & Cleveland Potash Ltd who supply the fertiliser market with potash products.

Boron is an important micronutrient for plant growth.

Magnesium is an important macro-nutrient for plant growth.

Iron is an important micronutrient for plant growth.  

Calcium is an important micronutrient for plant growth.

A forum for technical information about all aspects of fertilisers and crop nutrition.

Article on

AHDB Research Review 97 This is Part One of a two-part study to help cereal and oilseed

Navigate Eco Solutions are the developers of NavigatePro - a simple but comprehensive nutrient planning tool for advisers and agronomists.

Our ADAS Crop Physiologists just debated Compost Tea and our views were varied. A key aspect of o

The fate of much of the nitrogen applied to crops or grass as fertiliser around the world is ulti

A collaborative project conducted from 2010 to 2015 involved 17 partners from government, industr

Presentation from Daniel Kindred at CropTec 2021 on how to deal with higher nitrogen fertiliser p

Flyer produced as result of Innovate UK project with ADAS, Senova, RAGT, Saaten Union, Ensus &

Managing nutrients effectively is crucial for our soils, crops, livestock and environment. There are many resources and initiatives available to help. 

Help us collate the knowledge sources, organisations and initiatives out there that are seeking to improve the farmed environment

Organic materials, including livestock manures, biosolids, compost and digestate contain valuable plant nutrients which can save farmers money on their fertiliser bills, and organic matter which can help improve soil quality.

Cover crops are grown primarily to ‘protect or improve’ soils between periods of regular crop production. They can be effective at improving soil functions by increasing soil nutrient and water retention, improving soil structure/quality, reducing the risk of soil erosion, surface run-off and diffuse pollution by providing soil cover and by managing weeds or soil-borne pests.  

Share resources, groups and projects that you've found helpful for soil management.

Projects and companies are looking hard at recovering nutrients from bio-wastes and by-products to produce organo-mineral fertilisers

Interest is growing in using legumes like lucerne or clover as a permanent understory to cereal crops to provide nitrogen through the season.

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Potassium is an important macro-nutrient for plant growth

Manganese is an important micronutrient for plant growth.

Zinc is an important micronutrient for plant growth.

Molybdenum is an important micronutrient for plant growth.

Copper is an important micronutrient for plant growth.

How we manage our farms and fields is not only important for the nutrition of crops and livestock, but also for the quality and nutritive value of the food we eat.

We help farmers grow naturally stronger plants, increase crop yields & immunity, and eliminate over-reliance on the use of harmful chemicals.   envirolizer® is a natural mineral plant growth enhancer and adaptogen.  It contains finely micronized and augmented natural calcite. Fully certified as organic input and fulfils the requirements of Demeter International as well as listed in the EU Input Lists. The farmers' ultimate solution for plant growth, made from 100% Natural Minerals.

Skippy Scout After four years acting as a 3rd party distributor of various software and hardware, and a highly experienced training school, In 2019, frustrated with existing drone-based, crop monitoring methods, they decided to develop their own smartphone app called "Skippy Scout". Skippy Scout controls standard, off-the-shelf drones in order to improve and assist with modern crop monitoring methods. Flying at both low and high altitudes above the field, Skippy images and analyses the crop; collecting useful data that can be shared anywhere, instantly. This data immediately highlights any variation throughout a given crop, and can then be used to inform application rates accordingly. Big believers in both the future of precision Ag and the important role of the Agronomist, Drone Ag sees Skippy Scout as an additional tool to add to farmers' and agronomists' arsenals - saving time and increasing efficiency in the field. Skippy provides quick, easy and actionable data using two different flight behaviours: Scout Spheres; an intuitive field overview function; Skippy flies the drone to the centre of the crop at an appropriate height. Here it takes a quick spherical panorama of the whole crop, this image is then sent to the user's account and is viewable within 2 minutes of upload. These Sphere's can be sent to any device with internet and a web browser. Please view our Scout Sphere's tour, here   Leaf-level analysis; the drone is flown to specific points throughout the field. At each point, the drone lowers itself to 2m above the crop, where it takes a high-resolution image, facing directly down. These leaf-level images are then uploaded and analysed with Skippy's AI, to produce a crop report which shows each image alongside its AI analysis result. These reports are processed & sent within approximately 15 minutes of upload, and the resulting data is also overlaid within the Scout Spheres interface. With initial AI development being directed at the crops grown at Drone Ag's Headquarters in Northumberland, and with a specific focus on WOSR; Skippy's AI now provides: Emergent plant counting, Green area index measurements, Unhealthy leaf %, Flowering ratios, Pod-development, Ripening, And Senescence. Skippy is constantly being developed and improved upon, with an aim to include integration and analysis for as many farm management platforms, drone systems and crops as possible. Find out more by visiting the Skippy Scout website.

From Crop Action Feb 2022: Sulphur is an essential plant nutrient and

Paper from 2010 AAB conference: Kindred, D. and Sylvester-Bradl

Marking a huge advance in improving crop health and nutrition worldwide, the Consortium for Preci

AHDB Report (2015) from Targetted P LINK Project by Tony Edwards, Paul Withers, Roger Sylvester-B

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