Better nutrient plans


Ballance Science Extension Manager Aaron Stafford shows off a new generation nutrient management plan

December 15, 2011


Nutrient management plans (NMP) are a vital tool for farmers and have been a key development for the fertiliser industry.

Now Ballance Agri-Nutrients has taken them a step ahead, upgrading its NMP Generator to put customised information into the hands of farmers, so they can achieve higher production while minimising waste and environmental impact.

Ballance Science Extension Manager Aaron Stafford says the upgraded version builds on the original NMP Generator, released four years ago, and delivers core information which is easier to interpret and more comprehensive.

“Our NMP Generator has been very effective in enabling us to produce customised plans under increased farmer demand. Now we’ve gone further with it to include more information as part of the development of an effective nutrient management plan which takes into account factors such as farmers’ goals, management practices and soil types to provide more comprehensive and customised advice,” Mr Stafford says.

The level of detail with this customised advice is the key to effective and productive planning.

“It’s important for us to have a clear understanding of the goals of the farmer and the specific challenges faced on the farm. The whole point of a nutrient management plan is that it is designed to drive profitability on that specific farm, and it might take a very different approach from the neighbour’s farm.

“By understanding that uniqueness and working directly with it, we can achieve better outcomes for farmers and the environment. We look at the fundamentals and consider all the variables before we even begin work on developing a plan.”

Mr Stafford says the information could be gathered during a single visit, but often multiple visits are needed – but the end result is a nutrient management plan that will see the farm through the next three years.

The NMP Generator is based around utilising data from the Overseer Nutrient Budget decision support tool and is used to assist Ballance Technical Sales Representatives to deliver nutrient management plans. The objective of these nutrient management plans is to highlight to farmers opportunities to improve return on fertiliser investment, improve nutrient use efficiency, and reduce risk of nutrient loss.

“By improving the uptake and understanding of these plans, farmers can be more strategic in the management of nutrients within their operations and ultimately become more profitable and sustainable.”

Mr Stafford says nutrient management plans are a strategic tool, based on ‘steady-state’ farm management. With this in mind, a nutrient management plan created could now have a life expectancy of three years, but should be updated if farm management changes considerably within that time.

“So any existing plans that we have delivered to farmers are still valid, however from spring onwards, when any new nutrient management plans are created they will have an improved look and feel, being much more visual and user-friendly.”

Farmers are provided with a paper or electronic document and will be provided with a two page shed planner for easy reference.

15 December 2011

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