Going with the flow to liquid fertiliser: case study 3

In the third and final in our series of AF Changemakers liquid fertiliser case studies, we speak with AF Member J W Coe & Company.

If you are interested in making the switch or would like to discuss the benefits call your AF Fertiliser team on 01603 881 916 or email fertiliser@af.farm.


3. J W Coe & Company

My name is Mark Coe and I have a company called J W Coe and Company.

We are an all arable farm and we grow wheat, barley, rape and beans.  We also let some land out for potatoes, parsnips and pigs.


What has been the main driver for change?

 The main driver was so that we could change from two 24 metre sprayers, to one 36 metre sprayer.   I wasn’t confident that granular products would spread evenly and consistently at 36 metres.  And those granular products that do have that spread have a much narrower window for application.

That was the biggest driver to switching. But there are lots of other factors that make it viable.  It’s much easier to store and handle. We don’t need loaders and trailers running from field to field now either.  We only need a bowser which supplies a sprayer.


Describe the main steps you are taking?

We’ve changed from granular fertiliser to almost totally liquid. We still use a small amount of granular in the seedbed for spring barley which we put on before the cold weather.  The reason that we still use granular for that is because I have it made specially and it isn’t available in liquid form.  We use liquid fertiliser for everything post-emergence now.

We went down the road of using Yara and they were very helpful.  They came out to see us and advised us what was and wasn’t available. They supply all the tanks at no cost to us and the whole process of filling up tanks has been has been painless.


What are the results of the changes you have made?

When side spreading, for example when you’re doing the margins, with liquid you can be confident that you are covering the edge of your crop but you’re not wasting fertiliser on the margins.  That’s a huge step forward for us.

Moving to liquid has also considerably reduced our storage space for fertiliser and also as we don’t have bags of granular stored in sheds, we don’t have the health and safety requirements that go with them.

We have a chaser bowser which is designed to carry it in that and chases the sprayer around.  The whole process has been a revelation really, it’s just much quicker and easier to handle.

The other factor that has been very important is that in dry times, a crop will pick up liquid fertiliser much sooner than it will pick up granular fertiliser.  You can see that now, when we haven’t had a lot of rain, and the leaves are very green.  Whereas we look over the fence where they’ve used granular fertiliser, it’s not picked it up as quickly. That’s obviously a big a big benefit agronomy wise as well.

The other thing to consider is your spraying window or your application window.  With liquid fertiliser it’s much wider, because if it is drizzling with rain you can’t spread solid fertiliser accurately, whereas actually it’s almost the perfect conditions for liquid.  We seem to be in an era now where we go through long dry periods, then long wet periods then long dry periods. So liquid fertiliser is a much better option with the unexpected weather changes we get.  We are finding liquid application much more accurate too.


How has AF helped you?

We put everything through our AF account.  Even if we need to speak with a supplier direct, we still put the transaction through our AF account.


What next?

At the moment we are only using liquid in nitrogen and sulphur format.  We’re not using liquid P and we’re not using liquid K yet.  When we moved to liquid, we had a fair bit of granular K in stock which we are using up. At the moment we apply it as a granular mix pre-cultivating.  We don’t apply a lot of P.

We are certainly looking at moving to liquid K once we have used up our granular stock.  At the moment I can’t see any reason not to do it.  It would give me the opportunity to put K on more accurately in the early spring when it’s needed the most.