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WA to get $14.6 million of funding for soil and crop nutrition research

  • By: "Prime" Ag News
  • Mar 15, 2018

GRDC chairman John Woods said the GRDC had increased its investment into WA soils and crop nutrition research in response to grassroots feedback.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is partnering with multiple organisations from the public and private sectors to invest in a $14.6 million suite of Western Australian soils and crop nutrition research projects.

Involving extensive collaboration between government, universities and grains industry stakeholders, three major new projects have been initiated by the GRDC, which is the major contributor - with an $8.3 million commitment.

Research and development carried out through this investment will focus on:

   * Getting a better understanding of soil nutrient supply, leading to more efficient fertiliser use to meet crop requirements for grain production
   * Distribution of nutrients when soils are renovated
   * Developing new in-the-field soil sampling methods.

Co-investments, equivalent to $6.2 million, have been committed by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), The University of Western Australia (UWA), CSIRO, Murdoch University, CSBP, Summit Fertilizers and The University of Adelaide (UA).

GRDC chairman John Woods said the GRDC had increased its investment into WA soils and crop nutrition research in response to grassroots feedback that has been gathered through extensive GRDC consultation, including by its Western Regional Panel and Regional Cropping Solutions Network (RCSN) groups.

“The GRDC has acted on grower and adviser feedback that improved knowledge is needed about the State’s soils and crop nutrition requirements – especially for the most commonly required nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – in order to maximise crop profitability,” he said.

“These investments are unprecedented in WA in terms of scale and level of collaboration and involvement with key industry R&D organisations and stakeholders.

“This will allow the projects to draw on the wide range of specialist skills and scientific knowledge available from the multiple organisations involved.”

Mr Woods said the biggest of the three soils and nutrition projects, worth a total of $9.7 million across five years, aimed to improve WA grower profitability through more efficient nutrient use.

He said researchers will investigate soil nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium supply to crops, with a focus on providing a better understanding of fertiliser requirements.

“This investment will be led by UWA - through the SoilsWest alliance with DPIRD - and Murdoch University and UA, with involvement from other grains industry stakeholders,” he said.

“The project will improve knowledge about nitrogen cycling and availability, soil phosphorus and potassium storage, sources of nutrient supply and responsiveness of crops.

“Quantifying soil nitrogen supply is crucial for grain growers, given it affects the rate of nitrogen fertiliser required and is one of the few in-season management strategies available to improve returns on all variable and fixed costs.”

Mr Woods said the project investigating soil nutrient supply would involve collaboration with researchers working in other projects that focus on managing crop nutrition on ameliorated soils and improved methods for soil sampling.

Researchers involved in the SoilsWest partnership between UWA and DPIRD will play a key role in this collaboration between projects.

Worth a total of $3.5 million over four years, the soil amelioration project will be led by DPIRD, in cooperation with Curtin University, Murdoch University, CSIRO and industry.

“This investment will improve understanding about how ameliorating soil constraints with strategic tillage changes the availability of nutrients in the soil, the duration of the effects and the implications for fertiliser requirements,” Mr Woods said.

“The area of soil mechanically modified in WA to tackle one or more soil constraints is increasing rapidly and, to date, the effects of ameliorating soil constraints on soil nutrient availability has seldom been measured.”

Mr Woods said the soil sampling investment, worth a total of $1.4 million over three years, would be led by CSIRO and have input from DPIRD, UWA and industry.

“New ways to collect soil samples are needed by WA growers to boost the accuracy of determining what soil nutrients are available to plants and help them make better, more cost-effective fertiliser decisions – ultimately increasing their profitability,” he said.

“Current soil sample collection protocols were developed in an earlier era when farming practices differed significantly from those in current use.”

The GRDC's purpose is to invest in research, development and extension (RD&E) to create enduring profitability for Australian growers. It invests in projects and partnerships that drive profitability, productivity within Australia’s grains industry.