NUTRI-CHECK NET’s 3 step checking approach to nutrition management

Despite crop nutrition management requiring urgent transformation to reduce costs and pollution as well as to secure food production, farmers are not well equipped to ‘check’ their crops’ nutritional performance. Farmers commonly use crop yield to gauge the success of their nutrition management, despite all the non-nutritional factors affecting yields. The NUTRI-CHECK NET project has developed a 3 step checking approach to Nutrition Management of (1) Plan; (2) Check and adjust and (3) Review.

Whilst farmers generally consider the nutrient requirements of a crop by creating a Plan, they rarely Check and Adjust that initial plan, and only very recently have they discovered that harvest analysis can reveal how well their plans and adjustments have worked. The absence of checking and adjusting has to led to widespread un-optimised nutrient applications causing additional costs, pollution and compromised production levels.

Across nine European countries, the NUTRI-CHECK NET project has collated information about recommendation systems for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), to support Step 1. The project partners have cataloged tools and services available to farmers and advisors to facilitate Step 2 (monitoring and improving their decision-making), and the project’s 26 Crop Nutrition Clubs are assessing these and using harvest analysis to gauge the value of Step 3.

Nutrient concentrations (%DM) of harvested produce show whether crops captured insufficient, adequate or excess amounts of each nutrient. They enable farmers and advisors to Review nutritional performance, soil nutrient balances, and efficiencies of nutrient applications, and so inform future nutrition management crop by crop and field by field.

Stakeholders across the industry are debating the usefulness of this 3 Step Approach in National Expert Groups. They will take on-board lessons from the Crop Nutrition Clubs who are evaluating the approach and identifying the best tools and services to support each step.