Farmers with land in seven groundwater safeguard zones in Cheshire are being offered free soil nitrogen testing to take the guess work out of their fertiliser applications.
Regional water firm, United Utilities, is running the offer again after its pilot of the CF N-min sampling tool – the industry’s most accurate nitrogen measuring tool – last year.
The pilot covered three safeguard zones and sampling was taken from 25 fields.
The system calculates the most cost effective level of nitrogen application needed for a crop to optimise yield.
At the same time, it minimises environmental impact including reducing levels of nitrogen leaching into groundwater.
Catchment advisor, Ellie Morris said: “CF N-Min is an essential tool for all arable and maize growers wanting to improve the efficiency of applied nitrogen fertiliser and manures.
“Farmers and agronomists were able to compare the enhanced results with the standard RB209 recommendations and make an informed decision on their nitrogen application rates.
“The soil test doesn’t always advocate applying less nitrogen than standard recommendations, it recommends a more accurate application.
"In some cases it recommended more was applied as there wasn’t a sufficient pool of nutrients in the soil.”
Qualifying farmers with land in the seven groundwater safeguard zones have until 4 December 2020 to register their interest.
They will receive up to five free soil tests next spring, as well as personalised nitrogen recommendations with timing guidance on applications.
Ms Morris added: “Over application of nitrogen not only wastes money but can also have long term environmental impacts.
“When too much nitrogen is applied to crops it isn’t taken up into the plants but can leach into groundwater when it rains. This adversely affects the raw water quality in the underground aquifers.
“The CF N- Min enhanced soil test results were very interesting from our trial earlier this year, and we’re keen to build on this knowledge and work with more farmers this time.”