Nutrient knowledge on the road

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Photo of CSIRO Dr Mike McLaughlin

Dr Mike McLaughlin, of CSIRO and the University of Adelaide, speaks to a group of growers and advisers at one of the More Profit from Crop Nutrition II workshops held across NSW in 2016.

PHOTO: Julie White

More than 350 growers and advisers keen to learn about nutrient management had the opportunity to hear from experts in crop nutrition at New South Wales workshops held at Moree, Walgett, Narromine, Parkes, Griffith, Cootamundra and Mulwala in 2016.

Presented by the GRDC-supported More Profit from Crop Nutrition II project, in partnership with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and Birchip Cropping Group (BCG), the roadshow brought together industry experts, successful farmers and local advisers to look in depth at soil nutrients on the farm.

Queensland DAF researcher and northern NSW roadshow coordinator Dr Kaara Klepper says the major benefit of the workshops is that researchers have to distil their knowledge and pass it on to growers in a concise and easy-to-apply manner.

“It really was about helping growers apply the knowledge that researchers have discovered,” she says. “Growers and researchers were bouncing ideas off each other and it was excellent to see growers asking questions about how to make better nutrient-management decisions.

”Dr Klepper says nitrogen and its movement through the soil, phosphorus and compaction were some of the more popular topics, with trace elements and acidity of particular interest at the southern NSW workshops.

“Growers are finding it difficult to predict available nitrogen in the soil,” Dr Klepper says.

“Those with waterlogged country were encouraged to dig up some plants to check if there were white tips on the roots, which suggests the plants are growing, before adding more nitrogen.”

Dr Klepper says soil pits in growers’ paddocks at each location enabled the researchers to explain that nitrogen drilled into the topsoil does not actually move unless there is a wetting front.

She says a common perception among growers is that nitrogen is mobile and therefore moves through the profile, but Dr Mike Bell, from the University of Queensland’s Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), explained that it tends to stay where it is applied unless there is a wetting front.

Dr Klepper says growers were interested in learning more about how much phosphorus is removed from the 10 to 30-centimetre layer.

“Some growers are now considering testing their soils to 30cm to see how much phosphorus is available at depth,” she says.

Another benefit of the roadshow is that it gives growers the opportunity to tell scientists what areas of research they need to assist their future nutrient-management decisions.

Birchip Cropping Group’s Louisa Ferrier, who coordinated the southern NSW workshops, says positive feedback was received from growers who attended.

Some of the changes that growers indicated they would make after attending the workshop included applying nitrogen earlier, using soil tests to understand the causes of poor crop growth and employing tissue testing to quantify micronutrient needs.

More information:

Dr Kaara Klepper,
07 4639 8870,
kaara.klepper@daf.qld.gov.au

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Region North, South, West