Guideline Index

Chapter 1: Fert$mart Planning

1.0 Introduction

The Fert$mart Planning Cycle (Figure 1.1) was developed primarily as a guide for farm advisors to step through the planning process and to prepare a soil and fertiliser management plan for dairy farmers. It can also be used by dairy farmers who have a sound understanding of agronomy and soil fertility. The process consists of seven steps designed to be repeated annually to update and fine-tune fertiliser management, and it brings together information from all other chapters in this manual. The process aims to make fertiliser more profitable by managing soil condition and the targeted use of fertiliser.

Figure 1.1  The Fert$mart Planning Cycle
Figure 1.1 The Fert$mart Planning Cycle

Fert$mart planning recognises that crop and pasture production is often limited by factors other than soil fertility, and consequently the following steps have been developed to ensure fertiliser decisions are made in the context of the whole farm system.

  • Step 1: Situation analysis – Focuses on understanding the farm business, the current farming system, resources (water, soils, nutrient sources, pastures and crop), infrastructure and management.
  • Step 2: Identify potential and limitations – Checks that farm production goals are realistic, given there may be limitations other than nutrients. This step also identifies any gaps in knowledge and skills, and shortlists management options best suited to the farm and farm business.
  • Step 3: Identify soil and nutrient related issues – Focuses purely on soil and nutrient related issues. Soil tests and field observations are used to narrow down which factors are limiting production and need to be managed.
  • Step 4: Interpret data and prepare draft nutrient plan – The information from all previous steps is interpreted and used to prepare a draft soil and nutrient management plan.
  • Step 5: Finalise nutrient plan – Practical aspects of the draft plan are checked and finalised.
  • Step 6: Implement nutrient plan – Nutrient management plan is implemented.
  • Step 7: Monitoring and review – Monitoring and review is on-going. Fine-tuning the plan may be required within 2-6 months depending on crop/pasture/milk production performance. In year 2 the planning cycle begins again, however soil testing may not be required. In year 3 soil tests are carried out across the farm to check soil fertility levels and trends.