Featured staff member - David Weaver

David standing with a hand full of gravel.
David is part of the Whole farm nutrient mapping project which aims to improve fertiliser use on-farm and deliver environmental benefits.

Protecting our waterways or protecting your hip pocket against excessive fertiliser costs are reasons to thank the department’s Senior Research Officer David Weaver for his work.

David is part of the Whole farm nutrient mapping project which aims to improve fertiliser use on-farm and deliver environmental benefits.

Since 2009, 14 100 paddocks have been sampled on 661 farms from Bremer Bay to Gingin to produce nutrient maps farmers can use to tailor their fertilisation schedule.

Testing at a further 350 farms is planned.

The project has just received national industry recognition and assessed as meeting Fertcare® standards, following on from a Fertcare champions of the decade award – achievements that David includes as career highlights.

“It is extremely satisfying when a participating farmer says ‘I believe this is one of the most important programs the department has delivered to farmers in the last 30 years’, or ‘this is the best ag workshop I have ever been to – the info is stuff I’ll take home and put to use immediately’,” David said.

David commenced working with the Department of Agriculture in November 1990 as a Research Officer in Albany, where he continues to work today.

He has worked on numerous projects, almost all of which have had a focus on managing agricultural nutrients to improve nutrient use efficiency and to minimise losses to waterways.

Some of these projects include:

  • Albany Harbours – aimed at understanding how nutrients are transported from agricultural land to waterways to inform activities to reduce water pollution around Albany.
  • Various Natural Heritage Trust projects – using Geographical Information Systems and decision support systems to identify and manage nutrient hotspots in catchments.
  • Making Better Fertiliser Decisions for Grazed Pastures in Australia – collation of nutrient response information from pasture trials around Australia to derive critical values, and development of the Farm Nutrient Loss Index.
  • Watershed Torbay – a national demonstration catchment where the aim was to develop and test approaches to waterways management at a whole catchment scale.
  • Accounting for Nutrients on Australian Dairy Farms – develop improved understanding of nutrient stores and flows on Australian dairy farms using an accounting framework.
  • Fertiliser Action Plan and Fertiliser Partnership – design of state government policies around fertiliser management on the swan coastal plain.
  • Nutrient Management Initiative – a GRDC funded project aimed at improved understanding of nutrient loss and management in cropping catchments around the Fitzgerald Biosphere.

David said he has had the good fortune of having fantastic support, and working with great people in all of these projects.

“Any achievements and highlights are due to the collective efforts of teams of dedicated people, from both technical and professional spheres,” he said.

David’s Project Manager Kim Brooksbank speaks highly  of David’s work and achievements.

“He identifies the problem, designs the solution, secures the funding and builds the team required and then plans and executes the necessary work, and most importantly, leads the farmers involved through the process of behaviour change,” Kim said.

“David understands that the job isn’t done when the report is on the shelf, and the change David and his team, co-lead by the equally talented Rob Summers, has been responsible for is of a scale that hasn’t been seen for generations.

“Their research has shown that there is $400m spent every year unnecessarily on phosphate fertilizers and that 70% of paddocks could be managed to ‘mine phosphorus from the soil until soil phosphorus levels decline to the critical value.”

David is currently working on the Regional Estuaries Initiative, Revitalising Geographe Waterways, and Forest Gravels projects.

The Whole Farm Nutrient Mapping project has a Facebook page for those looking for more information.