Ag News

New approach to fertilising crops in-season shows promise

  • By: Farm Tender "Prime"
  • Aug 25, 2017

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.

Mid-row banding of nitrogen (N) in-season increased uptake of nitrogen fertiliser in wheat by more than 50 percent – when compared with other methods of in-season N application – in Victorian trials last year.

Agriculture Victoria’s regional research agronomist Ashley Wallace, who has undertaken 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 from the trials as encouraging.

“Trials of mid-row banding of N in-season have produced promising results, including increasing fertiliser uptake by an average of 46% and up to 52% in wheat when compared with other methods of in-season N application,” Mr Wallace said. “The method also boosted grain yield by up to 0.5 tonnes/hectare.”

Results from mid-row banding trials in 2016 – an exceptional year in terms of rainfall and yields in many parts of the southern region including the Wimmera and Mallee where the trials were conducted – are being validated this year, with further trials currently underway at Ultima, Horsham and Telangatuk.

Mr Wallace said there had been a significant swing towards in-season management of N fertiliser in southern dryland cropping regions as growers looked to improve management amid variable seasonal conditions. The crop’s demand for N is largely determined by its yield potential, which is strongly related to growing season rainfall.

“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.

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

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