Fertiliser gaining spreading efficiency

Fertiliser spreading improvements

At a time when precision agriculture is gospel, efficient fertiliser use is critical.  FQC believes the physical properties of fertilisers are one of the keys to gaining fertiliser spreading efficiency.  With this in mind, FQC has gathered and analysed the data from its Spreadmark and Fertmark certification schemes, to better understand the role fertilisers’ physical properties play in the precision agriculture space.

“It is a time consuming but incredibly valuable task that not everyone has the ability to do. FQC has access to a rich source of data from our certification schemes and as a result we have been able to unearth some incredible gains in spreading efficiencies over the past 16 years,” said Anders Crofoot. 

After reviewing data from over 3000 spreader tests under the Spreadmark certification scheme, a 36 percent gain in the spreading efficiencies of the national fleet between 2006 and 2022 was discovered. The analysis shows an overall spreading performance increase of over 7 meters (from 19 to 26 meters) during this time. The current average certified bout width (across all fertiliser products) is now above 27 meters – and still improving.

“As fertiliser’s physical properties will play a part in this, we are working to introduce further analysis and standards to the Fertmark certification scheme around the physical properties of fertiliser.”

What does this mean?

“Well, you can’t throw talcum powder very far. So better physical properties and spreading technology means fewer trips up and down the paddock, due to the ability to drive and spread at wider bout widths. This saves time and money, and reduces the environmental impact, which is a win for everyone.”

The gains in fertiliser spreading efficiencies means less emissions and less time charged by the driver. This is estimated to save farmers around $170 million a year. However, the agronomic and environmental improvements are likely of even greater value (see infographic).

Unpacking $170 million of financial gain

While it is impossible to be exact with the saving, the FQC took the following into account:

  • Approximately 5 million tonnes of fertiliser are spread annually in New Zealand.
  • The average cost of spreading is about $160 per tonne.
  • The 36 per cent increase in certified bout widths reflects actual increases in real spreading widths.
  • Conservatively, about 75 percent of the contractor’s time is spent actually spreading.
  • About 80 percent of fertiliser is spread by contractors.
  • Therefore: 5 million tonnes x $160 per tonne x 36 percent improvement x 75 percent utilisation x 80 percent spread = spreading cost savings of about $173 million per annum (and increasing).
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