Inefficient or incorrect use of fertiliser can be a substantial, but somewhat hidden, cost in the cropping operation. Using good data to better understand your existing soil nutrient status before deciding on a fertiliser strategy can optimise expenditure on fertiliser and crop yields.
This Fact Sheet is the first of a series of Fact Sheets to assist growers in making better fertiliser decisions.
- Fertilisers are a major cost of growing a crop.
- Ensure your adviser has, or is working towards, the Fertcare Accredited Adviser standard.
- Be clear on fertiliser product choice and rate and timing of application.
- Soil testing is the only quantitative nutrient information that can be used to predict yield response to nutrients.
- Soil samples should be taken before sowing so that results and recommendations are available in time to order the right fertiliser product(s).
- Develop a strategy for deep sampling of nitrogen (N) and sulphur (S). For growers with a capacity to apply N either pre-sowing or at sowing, collect samples pre-crop (during fallow) with enough time to prepare N and S budgets and secure required fertiliser requirements. For growers relying on topdressing to supply additional N, sample in-crop during early crop development (i.e. cereals – during early tillering) with sufficient time to allow timely topdressing (i.e. cereals – before GS31).
- Choose a laboratory that has the Australasian Soil and Plant Analysis Council (ASPAC) certification for the tests they offer. National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accreditation is also desirable.
- Regular planned sampling of paddocks (for example, every three years) allows monitoring of fertility trends over time.
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