Four years of trials have shown that nitrogen fertiliser does pay in western farming systems, allowing growers to target-fertilise to obtain Prime Hard wheat quality or malting barley for maximum returns and efficiency of water use.
As well, the research points to chickpea, faba beans and canola being profitable alternatives to traditional wheat and barley, both in their own right and for the benefits they bring through rotations with cereals.
Grain prices and favourable seasonal conditions have influenced the gross margin returns noted below for crop trials at Nindigully — part of the .GRDC-supported project 'Sustainable rotations and cropping practices for the marginal cropping areas of north-west New South Wales and south-west Queensland'.
Queensland Department of Natural Resources agronomist Greg Thomas says three of the four seasons
since the Nindigully trial was established have seen well above-average rainfall.
Standout returns came from wheat that followed a chickpea crop and which was also targeted with N to achieve PH. That chickpea/wheat treatment had returned a total gross margin of $1,350/ha for the four years of trials. (See table below for comparison of treatments and rotations.)
"We know that our profitability results have been influenced by grain prices and seasonal conditions," Dr Thomas says. "We need to continue the work over a range of seasons, or use crop models, to see how results hold up in less favourable years."
|Treatment/rotation||Total gross margin (S/ha) for four years of trials|
|Chickpea-wheat, with N to achieve PH||1,350|
|Chickpea-wheat with no N||1,080|
|Barley with N targeting malting quality||1,070|
|Continuous wheat with N targeting PH||970|
|Faba beans-canola-wheat with N for PH||810|
|Faba beans-canoia-wheat without N||540|
|Barley without N||280|
|Wheat no N||240|
Program 3.5.1 Contact: Dr Greg Thomas 07 4688 1200