Digging into history to guide future fertiliser use

Author: | Date: 25 Jul 2012

Simon Speirs

History is helping to shape the future when it comes to the use of fertiliser in Australian cereal, pulse and oilseed crops.

Results from soil test-crop response trials conducted across Australia over the past half a century are being collated for a new national data bank designed to assist with fertiliser application recommendations in years to come.

Through the Making Better Fertiliser Decisions for Cropping Systems in Australia (BFDC) project, data from more than 5500 field experiments in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur is being evaluated and will be stored in an online database for future access by the grains and fertiliser industries.

Funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the data repository will be used to establish the benchmark for soil test interpretations in Australia.

BFDC project leader Dr Simon Speirs, of the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Wagga Wagga, says the initiative is aimed at improving confidence in soil testing as a means of providing better calibration data to underpin the fertiliser recommendations obtained by farmers from accredited advisers.

“Since the early 1960s, many thousands of fertiliser trials (soil test-crop response trials) with accompanied soil test values have been conducted for cereals, pulses and oilseeds across Australia using nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur,” Dr Speirs said.

“These trials include a range of crop types, field measurements and soil testing methods, and have been conducted by state and federal agencies, the fertiliser industry, universities, farming system groups and agricultural advisers.

“Until now, the results of these trials have never been collated into one national database.”

All that trial data will soon be accessible to registered users who are being provided with the skills to use the “BFDC Interrogator” tool that has been developed as part of the project.

A series of BFDC Interrogator train-the-trainer workshops for researchers and advisers has been recently held throughout the southern cropping zone.

Dr Speirs said attendees who successfully complete one of these workshops will then be able to train other advisers to interrogate the database, in time for the beginning of the 2013 winter cropping season.

He said fertiliser decisions made by grain growers should all start with, and rely on, knowledge of the fertility status of paddocks. These decisions need to account for the nutrient requirements of plants for growth, nutrient availability in soils, and nutrient losses that can occur during crop growth.

“The BFDC project aims to provide the fertiliser industry, agency staff and agribusiness advisers with knowledge and resources to improve nutrient recommendations for optimising crop production,” Dr Speirs said.

In addition to the BFDC Interrogator, a website has been developed (www.bfdc.com.au) to provide direct access to key publications arising from the project. Case studies will also be available to demonstrate the results that can be obtained using the BFDC Interrogator.

The project includes substantial collaboration from the fertiliser industry (including the Fertiliser Industry Federation of Australia, International Plant Nutrition Institute, Incitec Pivot Fertilisers, CSBP, Summit Fertilisers, Superfert, and Impact Fertilisers), consultants (Back Paddock Company, Geographic Web Solutions, K I P Consultancy Services, Reuter and Associates, and Dodgshun Medlin), state and federal agencies (SARDI, DEEDI QLD, DAF WA, Vic DPI, TIAR and CSIRO), agribusiness (Landmark and Elders) and universities.


: BFDC project leader Dr Simon Speirs, of the NSW DPI, Wagga Wagga, outlining the initiative at a GRDC grains research Update in Adelaide.

GRDC Project Code: DAN00132

Media releases and other media products can be found at www.grdc.com.au/media

For further information: Dr Simon Speirs
Project leader, NSW DPI
Phone 0428 647 787

Contact: Sharon Watt
Porter Novelli
0409 675100

GRDC Project Code DAN00132

Region National, North, South, West