DEFRA's response to rising nitrate fertiliser costs

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has announced it will host an emergency meeting to discuss fertilisation plans with farmers, the end goal being to reduce the impact of rising costs on food production. 


In recent weeks, ammonium fertiliser prices have reached as much as £1000 per tonne, up from £280 per tonne just a year ago. This fear of rising fertiliser costs led to panic buying from some growers, which in turn is increasing the cost due to the increased demand. 


The meeting itself will explore alternatives to ammonium nitrate fertiliser, such as those produced from organic material, as well as discussing the possibility of going back to traditional farming methods that do not use fertiliser. There has been talk of DEFRA compensating farmers for sowing nitrogen-fixing plants in order to reduce the dependence on manufactured fertilisers. 


Some farmers have warned of their intentions to buy less fertiliser, to offset the high prices. This will inevitably result in reduced crop quality and production, having a profound impact on the food industry. This industry is already under extreme pressure due to a threatened supply of cereals as a result of the actions of Russia, a major exporter.


To help UK farmers deal with the rising prices, Defra has introduced a delay in changes surrounding the use of urea fertiliser. The expected measures will not be introduced until April 2023, giving farmers enough time to manage costs and to adapt to the changing situation. 


Defra secretary George Eustice said “many of the challenges we face in agriculture will require a fusion of new technology with conventional principles of good farm husbandry”. 


Nitrate monitoring technology can give farmers and growers confidence that the fertiliser added is optimal for crop growth. At ZP AgTech, our nitrate monitoring technology is able to measure the levels of nitrate in the soil at different depths. If farmers were to implement our technology into their fields, it would allow them to continuously monitor nitrate levels, giving them a greater understanding of the amounts of fertiliser needed in certain areas. This would allow them to save on fertiliser costs, reduce environmental impact and increase crop standard and production.