Fertiliser spreading: Key things to keep in mind this spring

With fertiliser spreading season now upon Irish farmers, there are a number of key elements people should keep in mind when on the go this spring, according to Teagasc.

First and foremost, health and safety must always be a priority – so make sure you know what you’re going at, Teagasc specialist Francis Bligh stresses.

“Thorough planning when making decisions about the type of fertiliser to use, the application rate and timing of application is very important,” he said.

“Planning how fertiliser will be spread in a safe way must also be a high priority.”

Health and Safety Authority (HSA) data shows that, over the past 10 years, accidents related to tractors, vehicles and machinery accounted for 50% of fatalities. Spreading fertiliser is highly mechanised and can be a high-risk activity.

Bligh says that farmers should consider the time required – not to rush jobs. They should determine how busy they will be and weigh up whether a contractor could help with the spreading.

It is also important to consider in what form the fertiliser will be delivered. The bulk or big bag option minimises the need for manual lifting if you have appropriate equipment,” he said.

Turning to maintenance, the Teagasc specialist said: “If you are carrying out the job yourself it is important to carry out a thorough check of your fertiliser spreader.

Follow the operator’s manual and make sure the PTO shaft, PTO cover, safety chains and O guard are in good condition. Check for cracks, rust, loose components and the general structural integrity of the machine.

“Make sure oils are checked and the machine is fully greased,” he added.

Continuing, he noted: “When attaching a fertiliser spreader to a tractor three-point linkage, it is very important to be aware of the places where a body part could get crushed.

“HSA data shows 54% of the fatal accidents with tractors and farm vehicles were due to crush injuries.

“The areas between the fertiliser spreader and the tractor is high risk for crush injuries.

It is very important that the fertiliser spreader is positioned on a stable base, quick attach mechanisms are used where present and the tractor handbrake is engaged before leaving the cab. Tractor controls should only be used when people are known to be safely outside crush zones.

The specialist also noted that farmers should take steps to avoid direct contact of fertiliser products with skin and eyes.

The corrosive nature of fertiliser can irritate skin especially where there are cuts or grazes.

Urging operators to always use protective gloves, he added that it is also good practice to wear a dust mask as the dust from fertilisers can also be a problem.

On the topic of spreading on sloping ground, Bligh said: “Tractors can overturn when spreading fertiliser on sloping ground. Driver competence and experience is very important.

Drivers should make sure that they are familiar with the slope by walking it before driving it, avoid dangerously steep slopes and make sure that the tractor is in good mechanical condition.

Noting the new accelerated capital allowances for farm safety equipment, the Teagasc specialist said:

“When purchasing eligible farm safety equipment, farmers can claim an accelerated capital allowances of 50% per annum over two years.

“This eligible equipment includes, for example, systems to enable the hitching of implements to an agricultural tractor three-point linkage without having to descend from the agricultural tractor as well as adaptive equipment to assist farmers with disabilities.

“Lifting systems for bags of fertiliser or seed of 500kg or greater are also included,” Bligh concluded.