DAS00146 - MPCN II - Managing micronutrient deficiencies in cropping systems of eastern Aus

Project Summary

Project Start Date
4 January 2014
Project End Date
30 June 2017
Supervisor Name
Nigel Wilhelm
South Australian Research & Development Institute

Many of the soils in Australia under agricultural production are very old and infertile. This infertility, if left untreated, can result in widespread and severe nutrient deficiencies, including those caused by poor supply or use of micronutrients. While management packages to treat N and P deficiencies are common and well-entrenched across the continent, strategies for managing micronutrient deficiencies are less well known. There is also increasing concern that micronutrient supplies from the soil may no longer be adequate for current cropping systems which are more productive, more intensive and more reliant on supplies of fertiliser N and P. These concerns are often coming from districts where micronutrient deficiencies have not been thought to be a problem in the past.

While micronutrient management packages for Mn, Zn and Cu deficiency exist, these were developed in farming systems which are now 20-40 years old and when fertilisers were relatively cheap. There is increasing speculation that those packages may not be adequate for contemporary cropping systems, that they may not be cost effective under current economic regimes where fertilisers are substantially dearer or that they may not be appropriate for the new areas of cropping which are quite different to the environments in which they originally developed (typically the higher rainfall cropping regions of SA and WA).

This project will address these increasing concerns and speculation in a two pronged approach for five micronutrients (Mn, Zn, Cu, B, Mo) for all cropping regions in Australia except for those in WA. This project will produce clear guidelines for management of micronutrient disorders for the major crops in the southern and northern regions of GRDC based on existing knowledge which has been objectively tested for its relevance to modern cropping systems and modernised for current technologies and economic circumstances where necessary.

Areas and situations where disorders of either Mn, Zn, Cu, B or Mo are likely to occur will then be identified using the recent report by Rob Norton which identifies vulnerable soil types. FS groups, advisers and consultants from across both GRDC regions will also be consulted for recent occurrences of problems.Field experiments, designed with standard monitoring protocols developed by the steering committee, will be commissioned for the 2014-16 seasons to appropriate R teams to investigate or showcase application or management strategies to major crops in targeted situations. Some of these experiments in the first two seasons will be designed to monitor residual benefits of micronutrient applications in subsequent years. Six to seven field experiments will be conducted each season of the project.

The field work commissioned by the project will be used to fill gaps in knowledge of micronutrient management and to confirm those aspects of conventional wisdom which are still relevant to modern cropping systems. These combined sources of information will be used to review and revamp existing fact sheets on micronutrient management into GRDC layout in collaboration with the western region project. These will be disseminated to the industry via GRDC and FS group networks.

Another component of this project will be to construct a database of historical and current micronutrient management research and development in Australia. This database will be modelled on the "Better Fertiliser for Crops" database which archives R&D on N, P, K and S and the Plant Analysis Manual but will differ by not including the raw data or statistical interpretation of that data. The micronutrient database will record the nature and circumstances of the work as well as any take home messages.Formal scientific papers will be published based on the field data.

Published Date
20 August 2015

← Return to the Project Summaries list