Keeping the patch sustainable plus soluble nitrogen trials

Ron Longbottom

IMPRESSIVE TEAMWORK and on-farm achievements enabled the Grass Patch Sustainable Farming Group to win the Western Australian category of the national TOPCROP awards.

Based 75 km north of Esperance, the Grass Patch Group used an innovative approach to leadership with members rotating the leadership roles and the running of planning meetings.

The group tackled environmental problems through field trials run by members with the support of the WA Department of Agriculture.

Group member Dan Sanderson said Flexi N (nitrogen) trials were conducted in an effort to boost grain protein levels. However, the results showed only a slight increase in yield, and the increase in grain protein was not enough to boost grain quality into the AHI category (see table).

Mr Sanderson said the most beneficial use of Flexi N was likely to be at sowing time by spraying in conjunction with a glyphosate herbicide, and he points to his brother's plans to do just this on a neighbouring property.

The group hopes a product like Flexi N will provide an alternative to the problem of volatilisation of urea applied at sowing and later at tillering.

Other on-farm achievements included a bore project funded by the Natural Heritage Trust designed as a network to monitor water-table levels and trends in the area.

"We've also done seeding demonstration trials, including spreading, direct seeding and a combination of both to determine the best methods," said Ron Longbottom (seen above), another group member.

The group is also looking into Damara (meat) sheep, oil mallee plantings, an increased variety of legumes in crop rotations and minimum- and no-till farming systems.

All of these activities are helping members of the Grass Patch Sustainable Farming Group to learn from each other and enable farming in the area to remain sustainable.

Contact: Mr Ron Longbottom 0890757040

Increase in yield and grain quality following application of soluble nitrogen (as Flex; N)
TreatmentScreenings%Yield kg/haProtein%N in grain ppm
Control4.572.69.7 41
50 L/ha4.022.6910.7346
100 L/ha4.482.7511.1747

Region North, South, West