Hay and Silage

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - FRONT PAGE -

TRI­ALS of a rel­a­tively new ap­proach to fer­til­is­ing dry­land ce­real crops dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son have en­tered their sec­ond year, fol­low­ing promis­ing re­sults in 2016.

Tri­als showed that mid- row band­ing of ni­tro­gen (N) in-sea­son in­creased the up­take of ni­tro­gen fer­tiliser in wheat by more than 50 per cent – when com­pared with other meth­ods of in-sea­son N ap­pli­ca­tion.

The tri­als, which were run across Vic­to­ria last year, found over­all the fer­tiliser up­take greatly im­proved.

Agri­cul­ture Vic­to­ria’s re­gional re­search agron­o­mist, Ash­ley Wal­lace, who started the work as part of the Grains Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (GRDC) and Vic­to­rian Depart­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, Jobs, Trans­port and Re­sources’ (DEDJTR) Bi­lat­eral Re­search Agree­ment, de­scribes the out­comes as en­cour­ag­ing.

“Tri­als of mid-row band­ing of N in-sea­son have pro­duced promis­ing re­sults, in­clud­ing in­creas­ing fer­tiliser up­take by an av­er­age of 46 per cent and up to 52 per cent in wheat,” he said.

“The method also boosted grain yield by up to 0.5 tonnes/hectare.”

Re­sults from mid-row band­ing tri­als in 2016 are be­ing val­i­dated this year, with fur­ther tri­als cur­rently un­der way.

Mr Wal­lace said there had been a sig­nif­i­cant swing to­wards in-sea­son man­age­ment of N fer­tiliser, par­tic­u­larly in south­ern dry­land crop­ping re­gions, as grow­ers looked to im­prove man­age­ment amid vari­able sea­sonal con­di­tions.

“The time when crops are sown is a pe­riod when sea­sonal fore­casts and hence yield pre­dic­tions have lim­ited ac­cu­racy,” Mr Wal­lace said.

“This makes de­ci­sions around N ap­pli­ca­tion up-front dif­fi­cult and risky – ap­ply­ing N dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son bet­ter matches the tim­ing of ap­pli­ca­tion to crop de­mand.

“Un­for­tu­nately, sur­face ap­pli­ca­tion of N fer­tilis­ers, such as urea, dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son in­creases the risk of N loss through volatil­i­sa­tion.”

Mr Wal­lace ex­plained that midrow band­ing of fer­tiliser, where N is ap­plied be­low the sur­face of every sec­ond in­ter-row, has the po­ten­tial to re­duce risk - cur­rent re­search has fo­cused on ap­pli­ca­tion dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son, rather than up-front dur­ing sow­ing.

Last year’s tri­als at Lon­gerenong and Quam­bat­ook were un­der­taken in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Birchip Crop­ping Group, and aimed to com­pare mid-row band­ing with other forms of in-sea­son N ap­pli­ca­tion, in­clud­ing top-dressed, liq­uid fo­liar and mid-row sur­face ap­pli­ca­tions of N.

Mid- row banded treat­ments of liq­uid N were ap­plied us­ing a pur­pose- built three- point link­age mounted fer­tiliser band­ing gear, which used twin- disc open­ers to place fer­tiliser at a depth of 30 mil­lime­tres be­low the soil sur­face.

Each pair of discs was fol­lowed by a press wheel to as­sist with fur­row clo­sure.

Fer­tiliser treat­ments were ap­plied at one of two times be­tween the start of stem elon­ga­tion and sec­ond node growth stages.

At each trial site, the first tim­ing of ap­pli­ca­tion co­in­cided with fore­cast rain­fall in the days fol­low­ing, while the sec­ond tim­ing of ap­pli- cation co­in­cided with dry weather fore­cast in the days fol­low­ing.

This ap­proach was used to ex­am­ine the ef­fects of rain­fall fol­low­ing ap­pli­ca­tion on po­ten­tial losses of N and fer­tiliser use ef­fi­ciency of the crop.

“Re­sults from 2016 in­di­cated that the ben­e­fit of mid-row band­ing to crop up­take of N was greater where rain­fall was lim­ited soon after ap­pli­ca­tion, and the sur­face ap­plied urea was not washed into the root­ing zone,” Mr Wal­lace said.

“This in­di­cates that mid-row band­ing could be a more ef­fec­tive way of ap­ply­ing N un­der drier sea­sonal con­di­tions.”

A re­port of the 2016 trial re­sults, co-au­thored by Mr Wal­lace, is avail­able for view­ing and down­load­ing via the GRDC web­site at https://grdc.com.au/mid-row-n-fer­tiliser.

PHOTO: Piotr Tre­bicki

NI­TRO­GEN MID-SEA­SON: Agri­cul­ture Vic­to­ria’s re­gional re­search agron­o­mist, Ash­ley Wal­lace, at a trial site that ex­am­ines the use of ni­tro­gen ap­pli­ca­tion mid-sea­son.

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