In contrast to the vast majority of years, grassland fertiliser prices have slipped since the New Year, and could fall further according to those in the know.

Most years, fertiliser values are at their lowest during the summer as manufacturers look to increase demand and spread the workload. However, nothing could be further from the truth this year according to Robbie Duncan of Quest Farm Supplies, Kilmarnock.

"This is a unique year – fertiliser prices are mostly always at their lowest levels during the summer months," said Mr Duncan who added that values came down because few people were prepared to fork out the prices quoted at the end of 2018.

"Prices were not far off record levels at the end of last year, and on average dropped £15 per tonne at the beginning of January. They fell further last month and could slip even more."

Backing up these statements are the latest figures from AHDB fertiliser which shows UK produced ammonium nitrate (AN) (34.5%) slipped from a high of £293 per tonne in November 2018, to £278/t, last month, while liquid nitrogen (UAN) fell from £252 in December to £245 per tonne, in February.

Similarly, standard specification granular urea (46%N) fell from £305 per tonne in October but in January slipped to £285 and in February fell further to £274.

However, there has been little if any change in potash and phosphate values with the former actually rising £5 per tonne since December to £279, while both diammonium phosphate (DAP) and triple super phosphate (TSP), having slipped by a similar amount to average £403 and £333 per tonne, respectively.

The do nevertheless remain significantly more expensive on the year, with UK produced AN up 15%; liquid nitrogen (UAN) showing a 14% rise; granular urea up 9%; potash rising 7% and DAP and TSP showing an 11% and 17% increase respectively.

According to Mr Duncan, prices on average could fall a further £10-£15 per tonne if farmers hold off until next month too.

Mr Duncan who is also well known for his after dinner speaking, advised farmers to consider using urea, which containing 46%N, is better value than AN at 34.5%. Furthermore, it's kinder to the environment and doesn't dissolve as quickly as AN, and therefore lasts longer, he said.

Precision farming has nevertheless seen a huge reduction in the amount of artificial fertiliser usage, as more livestock farmers make better use of farm slurry, anaerobic digestate and even human waste, which is so much cheaper.

"Fertiliser usage will be 50% down on what it was 10 years ago," said Mr Duncan who also advised farmers to always buy fertiliser with added sulphur – the protein making element.

However, Rob Buck, fertiliser trader at Gleadell Agriculture, before it is taken over by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM Agriculture Ltd) – an American-owned company with 31,000 employees, on April 1, believes values may not fall any further when they have already slipped £30 per tonne since December.

"I doubt we'll see any correction in the market between now and the new season in May 2019 which will be beneficial to the arable buyer," said Mr Buck.

"However, we may see a two-stage drop as has happened in previous years to encourage grassland sales.

"We've already seen the bottom of the urea market with prices at a nine-month low at circa £260 per tonne and globally values have traded higher this week, while a typical multi-cut grass compound of 23:4:13 +7 sulphur is trading at £298 and in a blend at £280.

"January is usually very quiet, but it was a lot busier this year as farmers bought earlier due to concerns over Brexit. Our fertiliser market is 90% done," said Mr Buck.