Arable farmer, Adrian Johnson

OMEX suspension fertiliser offers growers more than just a cost-effective alternative to a granular system according to Lincolnshire arable farmer Adrian Johnson, who has recently completed the conversion of his farm’s nutritional programme.


Eighteen months on from taking up his new manager role at R H Lamyman Ltd, Ancaster near Grantham, Mr Johnson is confident he can boost yields by as much as 15% having applied suspensions along with slow release nitrogen to the sugar beet crop for the first time this year. Potato yields have already gone up by 10%.


The farm extends to nearly 900 hectares of limestone soils with P:K indices varying from 2-3 and a soil pH of 8. Organic content is poor across the farm due to a historical policy of removing straw after harvest. Sugar beet yields across the 110 hectares grown average between 69-74 tonnes/hectare.


“I brought OMEX with me from Holbeach Marsh where I used to farm,” says Mr Johnson. “I’ve basically grown up with the concept of tailor-made suspension fertiliser so I am fully aware of the benefits it can bring.”


Traditionally, R H Lamyman applied granular fertiliser using a standard P:K and salt mix, which was applied by a local contractor in the autumn. But, it is the fine tuning of nutritional inputs brought by suspension fertiliser technology that are applied in the spring that gives it the edge over a granular equivalent.


“Our sugar beet receives its entire nutrient requirement in March, including nitrogen plus Didin, which controls the release of nitrate to the crop, just prior to drilling. This saves two passes through the crop with all the associated costs and workload. The savings we hope to make is as broad as it is long,” says Mr Johnson. “The application cost saving by putting everything in the tank at the same time roughly equates to the additional cost of Didin.”


OMEX suspension is applied by local contractor Charles Wright. Suspension tankers from Bardney in Lincolnshire are delivered direct to the fields that need treating.


“I have been here for 18 months and we have now switched completely from a granular to suspension system,” explains Mr Johnson. “Not only has accuracy and output improved, but we can also now better utilise our own staff on other jobs at key times during the autumn and spring. We grow 121 hectares of potatoes too which is labour intensive, especially at planting.”


This is the first year Mr Johnson has used OMEX suspension on the sugar beet on the farm but it is the second year it has been used on the potatoes. He is confident that bespoke and tailor made suspension fertiliser can lift sugar beet yields by a similar margin.


An advocate of suspension fertiliser for many years Mr Johnson says that switching to OMEX suspension has saved about £4-£5/ha across the farm already, but there are many more benefits to this technology than simply offering a cost effective alternative to a granular system.


“Ease of application has to be one of the key benefits of suspension fertiliser,” he says. “Bagged fertiliser that is normally delivered in the autumn has all winter to settle out, which compromises application accuracy. Uneven particle size coupled with a variable and inconsistent product quality can also have a significant impact on spreadability. OMEX suspension fertiliser is delivered in the spring straight to the field so it doesn’t stay around long enough to settle out before it’s applied.


“Liquid and suspension fertiliser is always consistent and the accuracy is the same right to the end of the boom, which is critical on headlands where no fertiliser can land on ELS margins or is wasted in hedgerows,” explains Mr Johnson.


“I have definitely noticed better crop evenness from headland to headland with suspensions compared to granular. In sugar beet we should increase yields on the headlands alone by 15%, which means being able to boost average yields to about 94tonnes/hectare. Our aim is to grow our contract tonnage off fewer acres.”


He adds that in liquid form, nutrients are more readily available too – a huge advantage in drought like situations when granules stay on the surface and play no role until it rains. He can also tank mix pesticides such as Roundup and Avadex in with the suspension fertiliser too.