How accurately are you spreading fertiliser?

Research exploring the impact of fertiliser spread has uncovered that correct usage, taking nitrogen levels, spread pattern, soil types and season into account, is linked to higher crop yields and economic returns.

Research undertaken by Roesner Pty Ltd in collaboration with CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences was used to develop a computer-based tool to analyse the impact of fertiliser spread on various soils. Results indicate that poor distribution of fertilisers lead to a loss of yield because crops will grow unevenly, ripen at different times and present difficulties at harvesting time.

Here are some ways to improve the accuracy of your spread, thereby improving your bottom line.

soil and fertiliser

  1. Soil analysis

To determine which fertiliser is most appropriate for a crop, a broad-spectrum soil analysis should first be conducted alongside a nutrient management plan. Nitrogen levels will determine what type of fertiliser or other material must be used as well as the spread.

fertiliser and soil

  1. Determine the fertiliser quality

For an even spread, the fertiliser needs to be uniform which means checking the batch numbers to prevent the carry-over of older stock. Even with the same fertiliser brand, if it’s produced at different factories then it might have different characteristics. Remember that fertiliser can degrade with age and storage can affect quality, so avoid compaction by not stacking higher than three bags.

The use of a uniform compound fertiliser ensures no segregation of nutrients, allowing them to be evenly transferred across the entire spread, benefitting the entire crop.


fertiliser spreader timing

  1. Timing is everything

Strong winds can negatively impact your spread pattern, so avoid windy days. Damp or humid conditions also have an impact as the fertiliser will absorb the moisture, affecting flow rates, or cause sulphur products to build up on the vanes. Season timing is also important, so ensure that the weather predictions are the correct conditions for spreading both during spreading as well as the days following.

radium fertiliser spreader


  1. Regular spreader maintenance

When the best time for spreading has been determined, make sure to clean the machine both during, as well as after use. Check every part of the spreader regularly, replacing any items damaged by wear and tear, and invest in new spreading equipment if the time calls for it. Always check the deflectors and flow adjusting plates at the back of the spreader. Any excessive wear or missing parts may cause a variance in the spreading of any materials. Tighten or replace any parts to ensure optimal spreading and even patterns. Ensure that the spreading equipment is cleaned and stored correctly after use.

Unfortunately, spreading equipment doesn’t last forever, so it’s worth investing in a newer model if the spread is causing losses in yield.


  1. Get your fertiliser spreader set up correctly

It’s important to remember that the manufacturer’s guidelines for any particular spreader are solely a guide. These guidelines are based on tests done under ideal conditions at various test stations, outlining the optimum spreading ability. To get the best results, it’s worth performing a tray test with the chosen fertiliser and spreader, as well as a separate test conducted with a competing fertiliser.

The correct setting of a spreading machine is determined by the physical properties of the fertiliser. It’s important to:

  • Hitch the spreader correctly behind the tractor to ensure safe and correct operation. The spreader must be level when operating and the hitch can be adjusted to obtain this. Ensure that all parts are in place and the spreader is in good working condition beforehand to ensure accurate and optimal operation.
  • Get the speed right. Forward speed is vital for achieving a constant application rate which means use the correct gear when spreading. Variations in speed will result in an uneven spread and alterations to the rate.
  • Adjust the spreading width, as this is vital for accuracy when spreading. Selecting a wider spreading width can mean less time and fuel spent applying the fertiliser but it could also result in a poor spread. The spreading width and driving pattern need to be determined in accordance with the soil quality and season so as to spread the nutrients accurately and evenly.

Investing in the correct spreading equipment is just the first step in making sure you maximise your returns, maintaining and using your spreader correctly are the next steps that will lead to higher crop yields. Make sure you research the market thoroughly and engage with people who know the industry well before investing in any spreading equipment.

For the highest quality agricultural and spreading equipment contact Radium Engineering. With years of expertise, a passion for the agricultural industry and a commitment to manufacturing superior equipment, Radium Engineering is the answer to all your farming and agricultural equipment needs.