Western Australian grain growers are set to reap the rewards of a significant investment in new soil nutrition research that will boost crop production and reduce fertiliser costs.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development is contributing to a $3.45 million project, with Grains Research and Development Corporation investment, to help growers optimise fertiliser use in ameliorated and cultivated soils.
This project will operate in collaboration with a new project led by The University of Western Australia to increase profit from nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertiliser inputs in modern WA cropping systems. A third component will be led by CSIRO to improve soil sampling methods to better predict soil nutrient availability and supply.
DPIRD Managing Director of Research, Development and Innovation Mark Sweetingham said the research was at the cutting-edge of grain production, supporting grain growers’ eagerness to embrace new technology and farming practises, such as strategic tillage.
“Fertiliser is a major input cost for WA grain growers, worth millions of dollars,” he said. “This research directly addresses a key profit driver that will open the door on how to produce more profitable crops, more efficiently.”
Dr Sweetingham said the research aimed to fill a knowledge gap about the impact of mechanical soil amelioration practices on nutrient re-distribution through the soil profile, and investigate the impact on crop demand for nutrition.
“There has been increasing interest and adoption of strategic tillage with mouldboard ploughs, rotary spaders, disc ploughs and deep rippers across the grainbelt,” he said.
"All of these practices introduce spatial variation in soil nutrient supply, root growth or both. However, there is currently little knowledge on how crops use soil nutrients and respond to nutrients.”
Dr Sweetingham said collaboration between research agencies was an important feature of the projects investigating soils and crop nutrition, bringing together GRDC, DPIRD, UWA, Curtin University, Murdoch University, CSIRO, the University of South Australia, CSBP and Summit Fertiliser. The collaboration has been facilitated by the SoilsWest partnership, an alliance of organisations involved in soils research.
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