News: Fertiliser expense calls for higher analysis 

Farmers are set to be making some tough decisions on whether to ‘fert or not to fert’ in autumn. The record fertiliser price increases (primarily with urea and DAP) are putting the pressure on farmers who are feeling the pinch. 

Unfortunately, for the arable and horticulture industries the decision to withhold fertiliser is not an option and the consumer will feel the burn as the cost is likely to be passed on, Fertiliser Quality Council Chairperson Anders Crofoot says.

“While pastoral farmers will be able to withhold for a year, if they need to, their options for establishing their winter grazing crops will be limited.

For an industry that is being relied on for our economic recovery, this is an extra burden that could be done without.”

The on-going COVID supply chain issues driving the increase in fertiliser costs, coupled with reduced urea supply, highlights the importance of quality nutrient analysis for farmers.

“The more expensive nutrients become, the more important it is to have reliable nutrient analysis of what you are purchasing. The higher nutrient density ensures you are getting bang for your buck by reducing the cost in cartage and spreading.

Anders adds that the financial impact can be minimised by farmers ensuring they are being as efficient as possible in their decisions around the quality of the nutrient they are purchasing. 

“The Fertiliser Quality Council’s work on physical and nutrient properties, through Fertmark and Spreadmark’s quality assurance schemes, is about making sure farmers can do the best job with what they have got on hand. 

Fertmark and Spreadmark’s independent certification gives farmers confidence in their most expensive purchase decision on-farm.”



Anders Crofoot, FQC Chairperson, 027 426 5324, 

Penny Clark-Hall, FQC Communications Manager, 027 723 2733,


The Fertiliser Quality Council is responsible for both the Fertmark and Spreadmark initiatives.

Fertmark was devised in 1992 as a fertiliser quality assurance scheme after the government withdrew from fertiliser auditing. The scheme involves an independent audit whereby only quality products are approved and awarded with the Fertmark tick. There are currently 14 companies in the programme with over 69 registered products.

Spreadmark is a fertiliser quality assurance scheme founded by the New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers Association (NZGFA) in 1998. The logo can be seen on the trucks of over 75 companies in New Zealand.


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Knowing your number has never been so important for farmers. Whether its carbon or nitrogen, they are expected and need to be able to measure and account for both. Since 1 July this year, pastoral farmers have been required to keep under the annual  cap of 190kg of nitrogen per hectare, which is monitored by regional councils. There are specific annual reporting requirements for dairy farmers, but all pastoral farmers will need to be able to account for their nitrogen fertiliser use for each hectare of land.

The best way for farm owners to comply is to retain accurate records for all solid and liquid mineral N fertiliser purchased and applied. While the fertiliser supplier can provide a year-end statement of purchase records, the easiest way to collect spreading or application information is to have proof of placement as provided by a GPS-controlled spreading vehicle or aircraft. Spreadmark-registered vehicles and aircraft are able to provide this proof for farmers. The assurance is backed by independently assessed, audited and trained spreaders who can apply nutrients at an even rate and distribution pattern. If an operator has the Spreadmark tick, farmers can be confident the operator will place fertiliser where they want it, and at the right rate.

Precision placement is dependent on a number of factors: the careful integration of operator skills, sound and well-calibrated spreading equipment matched to the appropriate fertilisers. It is the integration of these factors that is at the heart of the Spreadmark accreditation.

Inadequate or inaccurate monitoring and recording of N fertiliser applications can lead to uneven results and a higher N use than expected at the end of the season. Farmers need to have systems in place to accurately record the tonnages and areas of fertiliser applied.

There are currently 80 Spreadmark-registered ground spreaders and 27 aerial spreaders in New Zealand, giving farmers the confidence they need that their fertiliser is being applied where they want it at the right rate.

Most farmers will need a Farm Environmental Plan in place by 2025, meaning their contractors will need to be able to provide data in an easily accessible and usable format to ensure accurate records are maintained.

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