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Fertiliser Manual (RB209) grassland recommendations for PLANET - IF01112

The project will design and code a software patch for incorporating into PLANET, that will allow industry standard nutrient and lime recommendations to be generated for individual grassland fields according to the intended management (e.g. grazing, silage, hay) and intensity of management (e.g. stocking rate, milk yield), and conforming to the recently revised `Fertiliser Manual (RB209)` (Defra, June 2010). The RB209 revision has resulted in a `step change` to the structure and recommended N rates for grassland. This project will result in the PLANET software being able to generate these new recommendations, thus providing an important mechansim for the industry to evaluate, validate and potentially provide feedback on the new system.

Defra`s `Fertiliser Manual (RB209)` has recently been revised and the new edition was published in hard copy in summer 2010 (252 pages), approximately 10 years after the previous 7th edition was published (2000). RB209 is widely recognised as the industry standard guidance for the use of manufactured fertilisers at the field-level, and for assessing the supply of nutrients from applications of organic manures in England and Wales. The revision process was undertaken by expert groups representing both the wide research community and industry stakeholders. Revision of the RB209 grassland section was a `step change` and the most significant change from the previous edition It required lengthy discussions before the content was accepted by Defra. There is a need to test and obtain feedback on the practical use and acceptability of the revised grassland recommendations by farmers and advisers, and and to identify potential changes and improvements.

PLANET (Planning Land Applications of Nutrients for Efficiency and the environmenT) is the industry standard nutrient management software tool in England and Wales for optimising nutrient use on farms, and helping farmers to comply with the Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) Action Programme (AP) rules on individual farms. First released in 2005, the tool has been designed for practical use on a routine basis by farmers and advisers. There are currently approximately 12,000 registered users of the standalone version of PLANET, as well as several software companies who include PLANET under licence to Defra. PLANET has significant and increasing impact on farm practices with increasing interest from all farming sectors, driven by the importance of better nutrient management practices to improve farm profits, protect the environment and comply with regulations (e.g. NVZs). The development of PLANET in England and Wales has primarily been funded by Defra (projects KT0113, IF0141, IF0171), though the latest version (v3) also gives nutrient recommendations and compliance with NVZ regulations applicable in Scotland (funded by the Scottish Government). The latest PLANET version 3 (release in September 2010) includes recommendations for arable and horticulture crops and the supply of nutrients from organic manures, mimicing the content of Defra`s `Fertiliser Manual (RB209)`.

PLANET v3 however, will not provide recommendations for grassland since these were not available in time. Including functionality to generate RB209 grassland recommendations will meet the following requirements:

1. To allow evaluation and ‘validation’ of the new system of grassland recommendations, to test industry reaction and to provide feedback to Defra and the science community. This is needed to identify if any changes need to be considered to the new system, and to inform further research requirements. Coding and provision of the new grassland recommendations into PLANET is an essential step/milestone in this process so that grassland recommendations can be widely and easily generated, and then evaluated at the farm and field level.

2. The new grassland recommendations are complex, and ideally suited to computerisation to allow wide, easy and accurate use by farmers. This trend of increasing complexity is also happening for other crops, suggesting that future `master` RB209 recommendations might move from a paper-based to a web-based system. This might provide an easier platform for maintaining these recommendations in an up to date form, and allow updating on an `as need` basis as new robust information became available. Computerisation also allows scope for inclusion of more sophisticated ‘best practice’ calculation models developed from new research.

3. The absence of grassland recommendations in PLANET v3 will significantly detract from its value to grassland farmers, the potential for obtaining feedback on the the new recommendations, and for improving nutrient management practices on grassland farms.

To design, code, test and release a software patch for PLANET version 3 that will generate nutrient and lime recommendations for grassland fields according to the revised ‘Fertiliser Manual (RB209)’ (published June 2010).
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : sid5 (IF01112 PLANET grassland)   (224k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2010

To: 2011

Cost: £49,023
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Integrated Farming Systems              
Livestock Farming              
Sustainable Farming and Food Science              
Sustainable Farming Systems              
Technology Transfer