AHDB to update RB209 manual

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is to take the lead on reviewing and updating the national Fertiliser Manual (RB209). This follows criticism of Defra for allowing the publication to date in the light of new research findings and farm practice. 

The AHDB intends to have a revised manual out in 2017, seven years after the last Defra update in 2010. Defra has licensed responsibility for the manual to AHDB on an ongoing basis, with the Board committing £95,000 to the funding the project. It will be delivered through a consortium of government, organisations and companies - the UK Partnership for Crop Nutrient Management - chaired by Perthshire farmer and chair of Scottish Agronomy George Lawrie.  

The consortium has 36 members, including the AIC, AICC, BSPB, FACTS and PGRO; manufacturers Bunn, GrowHow, K+S Kali, Omex, and Yara, and  distributors Agrii, Bunn, Frontier and Hutchinsons, plus the corporate farmer Velcourt among other bodies. Technical working groups for the arable, horticulture and livestock sectors will support the steering group, with other stakeholders, including farmers, growers, their representatives, manufacturers, agronomists and advisers also contributing to the plan and the technical working groups.   

The new manual, which will include nutrient management research released since RB209 was last published, will be called AHDB Nutrient Management Guide, the successor guide to RB209, will be published in 2017. In the interim, the existing RB209 will be hosted on the AHDB website from this week.  

AHDB chairman Peter Kendall says the project shows AHDB’s commitment to adding value to levy-funded research, and ensuring UK farmers and growers have access to the latest evidence-based guidance. “In taking the lead on crop nutrition, AHDB is showing its ambition to deliver a world-class set of tools to farmers and growers. There are many challenges that UK producers face and by providing current, relevant data on crop nutrition, they will be better placed to make the decisions that will drive our industry forward.” 

Mr Lawrie adds: “There had been no planned update of RB209 so I am really excited that AHDB is carrying out this review so we have more accurate data with which to make better management decisions in the near future. 

“Crop nutrition is one of the key elements to optimising production in the field. As a farmer, I use all the tools available to ensure that I manage resources efficiently, in terms of soil, applications and plant health. Over 68% of farms have a nutrient management plan with a high proportion of them revisiting these resources year after year to continue to manage crop nutrition. Therefore, it is really important that we have the correct information to make these decisions.”