Prepare now for protein

Author: Rachel Bowman | Date: 02 Apr 2013

Paddock of green crops

Growers planting high yielding varieties this winter crop season will need to get nutrition – including nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur – spot on to achieve high protein levels.

That’s the message from Sharon O’Keeffe, Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) manager regional grower services – north who says ensuring value from upfront fertiliser is key this season.

“We’re in a situation in the northern region from Dubbo, NSW to central Queensland this summer that part of the region has experienced flooding so we’re certainly going to see denitrification,” Ms O’Keeffe says.

“Other areas unfortunately haven’t had the summer rainfall so we’ve got a lot of stubble sitting on the ground which may, if we get a rainfall event just prior to planting, tie up a lot of nitrogen in the initial growth of the crop.”

She urges growers to take these conditions into account, talk to local agronomists and review the latest GRDC research notes and fact sheets at

“Put the information together for your area, your farm and your climate to ensure you are doing the best by your crop from the get-go.”

Ms O’Keeffe says low protein levels can be an indicator that the organic matter has run down.

“That means we basically have less flexibility in our nitrogen regime, we don’t have those buffers that we previously had; a few big flood years will result in that.

“It could also be quite simply a slow decline and soils are just reaching the tipping point.”

She says there’s never an easy solution and nor just one reason for crop events.

“We had a lot of small environmental indicators that pushed us into that situation of lower nitrogen and certainly having late season rainfall didn’t help.

“For the areas that had virtually no rainfall from early in the season the research indicates some of that nitrogen just wasn’t able to be accessed by the crops.”

The recent GRDC Updates across the northern region focused on exploring and explaining some of the causes of low protein.

“Some of the low protein was quite simply due to insufficient applications of nitrogen prior to planting or, in regions such as Central West NSW, growers missed their second chance to put on their canopy management applications of nitrogen.

“Growers should use the range of tools available to calculate the amount of nitrogen you need for the targets you are trying to get.

“That includes doing soil tests to a deep level for nitrogen and interpreting those results. Growers can access private services and/or use CropMate on the NSW DPI website.”

GRDC funds the More Profit from Crop Nutrition program which includes work from Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAFFI), Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Queensland (DAFFQ) and NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) researchers.


Video Caption:Sharon O'Keeffe, GRDC Manager Regional Grower Service - North discusses the lower than expected protein levels and how growers can prepare for the 2013 winter crop season.

Photo Caption: Sharon O’Keeffe, GRDC manager regional grower services – north says growers aiming for high protein levels need to get crop nutrition spot on this year.

Audio Download: Click the link below to download an audio grab for this media release.

Audio Caption: Sharon O’Keeffe, GRDC manager regional grower services – north says conditions have varied across the northern region this summer but growers need to consider their fertiliser regime early to achieve protein targets

For interviews contact:

Sharon O’Keeffe, GRDC Manager Grower Services North
02 6743 4265 / 0409 279 328

Rachel Bowman, Cox Inall Communications
07 3846 4380 / 0412 290 673

Region North, South, West