Friday, 8 April 2011

Less N Leaching. Lower Emissions & More Grass with EcoN

Eco-N Every so often Agricultural Research hits the jackpot with a really significant finding. I suspect the work on N Inhibitors by Profs'. Hong Di & Keith Cameron at Lincoln University, NZ in conjunction with Ravensdown will prove to be very significant. The end product of this research is the N Inhibitor Eco-N (now a Ravensdown product for use on pasture based dairyfarms. The Eco-N is applied as a fine spray onto the soil/pasture during the autumn & again in the late winter early spring. Here is a photo of Prof Hong Di & Prof Keith Cameron at the LUDF demonstration soil pit.

Urine is the main source of nitrate leaching & nitrous oxide emissions in grazed dairy pasture.

Dairy cow urine deposits the equivalent of 800-1000kg N/ha in each urine patch. Eco-N holds the nitrogen N that is normally leached or emitted, in the root zone so the plant can use it. It does this by slowing the activity of the nitrifying bacteria in the soil that convert ammoniun to nitrate. This boosts the N supply to pasture for plant growth during the growing season.

This was explained at the International Farm Management Conference held in NZ.

Watch a video of Prof Keith Cameron explain how Eco-N works

Eco-N is a Ravensdown product that could very very exciting & a huge break thru for the environmental management by pasture based dairy farmers. There are no incentives for reducing nitrate leaching or nitrous oxide emissions other than knowing you have contributed positively to the environment. So in the short term the usage will depend on whether the nitrogen savings (caused by the use of Eco-N) are more valuable (give an economic return to the dairy farmer)as measured by the additional pasture grown. The current cost in NZ of Eco-N is approx $170/ha/yr.

Work needs to be done urgently in the UK & France to see if we can get an economic return by using Eco-N & be credited with the environmental savings. Eco-N will need to be licensed for use in the EU. At the Lincoln University Dairy Farm 60 lysimeters (encased columnns of soil the same as exist in the paddock) have been placed on the farm to measure ground water nutrients. Further lysimeters have been set up at the University to see whats happening under clover pastures. Eco-N is applied before the major drainage off the farm most areas before winter. A second application is done pre spring rains. This also indicates that it is either Urine or applied N fertilizers that are applied during the autumn which might create the worst nitrate leaching problems. "Eco-N has the potential to be a valuable nitrogen management tool, together with best management practices, to support environmentally sustainable production of grazed pasture systems."

Current UK Pasture Measurements

On farm conditions remain very dry over most of the UK. Grazing conditions are ideal with very good quality pasture for milkers & young stock. Pasture growth rates have accelerated since last week. Magic Day is not too far away.

The very dry soils are a concern as we edge closer to summer without substantial rain. Dry summer planning eg Planting Chicory or Plantain & Clover leys, needs to start now.

Average Pasture Cover (kgsDM/ha) & Pasture Growth (kgsDM/ha/day)

Belfast, 2150kgs Av Cover & 66kgs DM daily growth (double last week)

North Wales, 1860 & 45

Oxford, 2100 & 70 excellent grazing

Sussex, 1902 & 55 (demand 50 & grazing rotation 21 days)

South West Wales, 1912 & 69 (Demand 52)

Dorset, 2048 & 64

Devon, 2500 & 94kgs (shutting for silage)

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