Testers sought for new soil amelioration tool
Author: Natalie Lee | Date: 26 Apr 2018
Researchers are seeking Western Australian growers and advisers to test a new decision-making tool designed to help grain growers understand the most cost-effective ways to spend limited budgets on soil amelioration strategies.
Modelling and analysis through the ‘Ranking Options for Soil Amendments’ (ROSA) tool, has already placed the value of lost grain production due to soil constraints across Western Australia at about $4.3 billion annually.
Project lead researcher Elizabeth Petersen, senior research officer at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), said the loss equated to about half of the medium term gross average annual value of grain production in WA.
She presented the ROSA model findings to industry earlier this year at the GRDC Grains Research Update, Perth. The tool was developed with investment by GRDC’s Soil Constraints West group of projects and DPIRD.
“We estimate the most cost effective combination of amelioration options currently available to address soil constraints will cost growers about $41 per hectare per year and return a benefit of about $124/ha/year,” Dr Petersen said.
“This has a benefit-to-cost ratio of 3:1 and a net benefit to growers of $84/ha/year, or $1 billion annually across the grainbelt of WA.
“A key lesson that has emerged from early ROSA calculations is that growers are likely to benefit more from treating multiple constraints in smaller areas first, rather than trying to deal with one single constraint at a time over the whole farm.”
The simple spreadsheet-based ROSA model is aimed at assisting agronomists, consultants and growers to rank soil amelioration options based on cost-effectiveness, and calculate their likely return for each dollar spent.
“Growers need to input data about their location, budget for amelioration method, soil type, soil constraints, current crop grain yield and potential grain yield,” Dr Petersen said.
“ROSA includes scenarios for investigating five soil constraints, seven single soil amelioration options and 15 combinations of soil amelioration options.
“The model generates a report outlining the benefit-to-cost ratio - or ‘bang for buck’ - for using various amelioration options to address the identified constraints.
“The process typically takes about half an hour and all feedback from growers and advisors who trial the preliminary version this season will be invaluable in fine-tuning the tool for the industry.”
Those interested in testing ROSA and providing feedback on the system to researchers can contact DPIRD senior development officer Jeremy Lemon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feedback is required by the end of May so it can be included in the updated version of the model, due to be released mid-2018.
Elizabeth Petersen, DPIRD
0404 077 194, 08 9332 8310
Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
0427 189 827
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