Improved Sampling Methods PROC-9175171

RFT Description

RFT No. PROC 9715171: Request for Tender for Improved sampling methods to better predict nutrient availability and supply for soils in the Western Region

Release Date

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Closing Time

5pm ACT local time, Tuesday 25 July 2017

Offer Period

Tenders will remain open for acceptance by the GRDC for a period of 6 months after the Closing Time.

Deadline for submission of Tender enquiries

5pm ACT local time, Tuesday 18 July 2017

Document Contact and Enquiries

Attention: Stephanie Meikle

Grains Research and Development Corporation


Electronic Lodgement of Tenders

Tenderers must submit their responses electronically through the Grains Investment Portal at


The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is a statutory corporation established under the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989. It is subject to accountability and reporting obligations set out in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. It is responsible for planning, investing in and overseeing research and development, and delivering improvements in production, sustainability and profitability across the Australian grains industry.

The usefulness of soil testing is under scrutiny because while there are standards for laboratory test methods and critical values for interpretation of soil test results, there are no industry approved and applied standards for soil sample collection. Current protocols were developed in an earlier era when farming practices differ significantly from those in current use. There are concerns about how current sampling methods relate to the methods upon which response calibrations are based and if the soil being sampled adequately reflects the soil zone where plants access their nutrients. Soil sampling methods have trended away from technical accuracy towards what is convenient for commercial soil testing services.

This investment will generate information on the strengths and weaknesses of current soil sampling methods and investigate and recommend to industry which sampling method(s) are best.

Historically sampling methods have been a compromise between accuracy and convenience.

Compromises relate to issues such as:

  • Need to have a test suited to multiple nutrients (mainly P,K,N and pH)
  • Sample numbers that allow time effective collection in relation to paddock scale and heterogeneity (macro and micro scales)
  • Sampling depth to reflect nutrient concentrations
  • Timing of collection to allow processing and fertilizer rate prediction (paddock) and product procurement (farm scale).

For instance, even though 30 cores per sample are suggested as needed to have confidence in the results of most laboratory tests (Peverill et al., 1999), in practice most samples consist of only 10 – 15 cores. Shortfalls because of the compromise are widening as farming practices change and different sampling machines, techniques and ideas on appropriate sampling methods are adopted. This investment will investigate which soil sampling methodologies ensure collection of a representative soil sample and ensure that adequate consideration is given to changes in farming practices that have occurred since the current guidelines for sampling were generated in the 1970’s.

In regards to representative samples, it will determine the optimal number of cores per sample, optimal number or portion of cores per sample collected from in and out of previous season's and/or next season's rows, optimal number of samples per unit area, ideal time(s) for sampling, sampling depth(s), sampling equipment and storage and handling of samples after collection. It will determine the best way to sample or otherwise consider gravel.

Sampling methods need to accommodate variation in nutrient stratification (both near the soil surface in 0-10cm samples and for subsoil accumulations below 10cm), variable horizontal and vertical fertiliser placement, on row and off row seeding, variable row spacing, soil disturbance or lack thereof at seeding, substantial mechanical soil amelioration (through ripping, topsoil inclusion, spading, delving, claying, ploughing) and variable wettability of soils. The timing of sampling is particularly relevant to those nutrients such as N that are released from the organic fraction of the soil.

Results, information and suggested sampling methods will be communicated to the industry including on the suitability of sampling methods for each of the commonly measured soil characteristics.

Changes in cropping practice make it likely that the compromises that were logical in past decades in shaping soil testing protocols will no longer apply. The relative economic importance of fertilisers has changed with P application no longer dominating budgets. N is now of greater importance especially in the context of lower use of legumes in crop sequences. Soil pH and lime application is now a major concern and 0-10 sampling depth gives no information of sub-soil acidity. Changes to rainfall distribution pattern mean that early summer sampling will often be a poor predictor of soil N available at sowing.

Given the complex nature of this investment and the wide range of skills required it is likely that this will require a collaborative approach that may include a number of public and private partnerships.

By June 30 2020, a new methodology(s) for collecting soil samples will increase the accuracy of determining plant available nutrients in Western Region soils and result in growers making better fertiliser decisions.

This GRDC investment is to:

  1. By 30 June 2020, complete a series of field and glasshouse experiments evaluating the accuracy of different soil sampling methodologies to measure plant available nutrients. Measurements should include;
    1. Spatial and depth accuracy.
    2. Timing of the collection of samples and its effect on plant availability of nutrients and fertiliser responsiveness.
    3. Number of samples collected within a paddock to accurately assess plant availability of nutrients.
  2. By 30 June 2020, a report to GRDC and extended to industry outlining a new soil sampling methodology that improves the detection of plant available nutrients and improves grower decision making.
  3. By March 2018, and each subsequent year, an Annual Progress Report detailing the key findings of the project for the reporting period.
  4. By June 2020, a Final Technical Report amalgamating the key findings, new knowledge and conclusions of the project to provide an overall interpretation of the work.

Application period

The application end date for this investment is 5pm ACT local time on 25 July 2017 as advised on the Grains Investment Portal and all applications must be submitted via the portal prior to this closing date for consideration.

All requests for further information or clarification in relation to this investment should be made in writing to prior to 5pm ACT local time on Tuesday 18 July 2017. All requests and responses to requests will be published on the GRDC website.

Selection Criteria

  1. A clear and thorough plan to achieve the project output, specifying:
    1. Method to be used
    2. Statistically sound experimental data generated via collaboration with SAGI West to develop appropriate statistical methodology for trial design, data analysis, and associated operational budgetary costings
    3. Proposed milestones
    4. Proposed locations of field experiments (if required to deliver project outputs)
    5. Staffing (including relevant skills, experience and availability of key personnel and proposed subcontractors)
    6. Budget (defining the funds sought in each year of the project and the potential investment from all parties)
    7. Project structure and management arrangements
  2. A plan for how the project will contribute to achievement of the outcome, specifying:
    1. Expected steps to deliver the outcome (pathway to market)
    2. Relevant assumptions in relation to each step of the pathway to market
    3. Identification of target users of the project outputs (who will the project directly deliver to e.g. grower, adviser, plant breeder, pathologist, the GRDC)
    4. Specific information, products and/or services to be delivered to target users
    5. Potential for the development of commercial IP
  3. Demonstrated track record of the project team, including:
    1. Relevant achievements of the project leader in providing leadership, co-ordination, management, monitoring and evaluation and the timely delivery of high quality outputs
    2. Relevant technical knowledge and experience of all key personnel (including proposed subcontractors) in the research area
    3. Relevant achievements in the delivery of commercial IP (if relevant)
    4. Ability of the project team to collaborate with the relevant research organisations and industry personnel to build on the research (national and international) already undertaken in this area
  4. Freedom to operate in regards to the provision of the project outputs to GRDC or a third party if required:
    1. Research Organisation intellectual property that is required to deliver the project outputs and any restrictions that may impact on the provision of project outputs to GRDC or a third party, if required
    2. Third party intellectual property that is required to deliver the project outputs and any restrictions that may impact on the provision of project outputs to GRDC or a third party, if required
    3. Other intellectual property that may impact upon the delivery of project outputs to GRDC or a third party
    4. The approach to be taken to overcome any restrictions identified
  5. The cost effectiveness and value for money of the tender response.
  6. Compliance with the tender requirements and draft Contract.
  7. Quality and effectiveness of risk controls.

Eligibility Criteria

  1. The Applicant must be a single legal entity or recognised firm of partners.
  2. The Applicant must be financially viable. For the purposes of this condition, “financially viable” means that the Tenderer has not had any of the following events occur in respect of it:
    1. a meeting of creditors being called or held within the past five years;
    2. the appointment of a liquidator, provisional liquidator or administrator within the past five years;
    3. the appointment of a controller (as defined in section 9 of the Corporations Act (2001)), or analogous person appointed, including in respect of any of its property within the past five years;
    4. a failure to comply with a statutory demand in respect of the payment of any debt;
    5. an inability to pay debts as they fall due or otherwise becoming insolvent;
    6. becoming incapable of managing its own affairs for any reason;
    7. taking any step resulting in insolvency under administration (as defined in section 9 of the Corporations Act 2001);
    8. entering into a compromise or arrangement with, or assignment for the benefit of, any of its creditors, or any analogous event.
  3. The Applicant and any proposed subcontractor must be compliant with the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.
  4. The Applicant must include in its application details of any known circumstances that may give rise to an actual or potential Conflict of Interest with GRDC in responding to this procurement. The Applicant's response will be taken into account in the evaluation.


Applying for GRDC investments is now done using the GRDC Grains Investment Portal.  Once registered, users can visit the Portal anytime.

To register as a user, please visit

  • Click on the register button at the top right hand side.
  • Complete the Registration Form. Fill in all the fields: your email address, a password and the captcha. Your password must be alphanumeric with at least one special character (i.e. not a letter or number). Click register to continue the process.
  • Registration is confirmed by the system sending an email to you, with details to complete the registration process.
  • Once the registration process is complete, you can sign in and review all investments open for tender

Once you have located this investment, you can commence the application process by completing the details for each field available, until you reach “Submit Application” on the last page.

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact Stephanie Meikle – Contracts Administrator West via email or use the online support function available.

Application evaluation

Applications will be considered by a selection committee and the successful applicant will be informed within four weeks of the application closing date.

Questions and Answers

Q1: Do you think academic institutions are eligible for GRDC tender?

A1: Any organisation which meets the eligibility criteria can apply for a GRDC tender.

Q2: Do you have any background information also available  for the previous investigations , information on the type of previous sampling and analysis please.

A2: It is the responsibility of the applicants to investigate these matters.

Q3: Would GRDC consider a tender lead by a grower group involving other organisations for the Improved sampling methods project?

A3: Any organisation that meets the eligibility criteria can apply for a GRDC tender.