Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Profit from crop nutrition 2013
5 Better fertiliser decisions CENTRAL DATA SOURCE TO DELIVER BETTER FERTILISER DECISIONS Researchers, advisers and fertiliser companies now have access to a robust database of crop nutrient trials from across Australia to help refine fertiliser decisions on-farm THE MAKING BETTER Fertiliser Decisions for Cropping Systems in Australia (BFDC) project database draws together data from more than 5000 Australian crop nutrition trials carried out since the 1960s. Project leader Dr Simon Speirs says that many of the datasets were previously sitting in people's filing cabinets. Integrating them under one electronic roof and making the information publicly accessible has been a significant step forward. "The aim is to promote the national database as the 'go-to' source for soil- test/crop response data and to encourage everyone involved in crop nutrition research to enter their trial data into the database on an ongoing basis," Dr Speirs says. The BFDC database has captured the lifetime work of many retired soil and crop nutrition research scientists. "We have integrated valuable soil test/crop response data that might otherwise have been lost." Using the specially developed online tool 'BFDC Interrogator', database users can establish relationships between a soil test and relative crop yield to calculate a soil critical value. "Where the data are available, this information can then be refined to relate to specific crops and soil types, rainfall amounts and farming systems." For example, using the BFDC Interrogator the critical value for potassium on a sandy soil type (tenosol) is about 40 milligrams per kilogram for wheat, up to 46mg/kg for canola, but only 25mg/kg for lupins. According to the BFDC database the same wheat crop grown on a heavier brown ferrosol has a much higher critical soil value for potassium at 64mg/kg. "Traditionally, potassium was only considered to be marginal for cereals between 30 to 50mg/kg, so the BFDC database is helping us refine critical nutrient values across soil types and crops." KNOWLEDGE GAPS Developing the database has also highlighted significant gaps in crop nutrition knowledge for Australian cropping systems. "The majority of the trials collated involve phosphorus and nitrogen in wheat and we have discovered we have very little information for other crops such as chickpeas and sorghum, and nutrients such as sulfur and potassium." Phosphorus data for pulse crops is dominated by lupin trials in south- west Western Australia, highlighting the need to expand the database for lentils, peas and other pulses. "We are using these gaps in the database to prioritise further crop nutrition research and we are encouraging farming groups and advisers running trials to examine and contribute to the database." TRAINING The database can be accessed for free once users complete a training course. An online version of the training course is in development and when available will enable more people to tap into the BFDC. "The training on the BFDC Interrogator enables users to produce critical soil test values for specific criteria," Dr Speirs says. Dr Speirs stresses that the database does not provide a fertiliser recommendation but instead generates a soil test/crop response curve for a particular set of conditions. Users can filter results according to their specific situation and explore the factors that might affect the shape and range of the soil test/crop response curve. "An adviser could use the database to explore the critical concentration of phosphorus required to grow wheat on a vertosol soil in Queensland and then filter the findings with variables such as rainfall, soil test type and last crop grown to determine how these affect the critical value and the curve range." ADDING NEW DATA Dr Speirs encourages all involved in crop nutrition work to contribute to the BFDC database. "The more data we collect the better our critical soil test criteria will be and this should result in better fertiliser decisions," Dr Speirs explains. Guidelines surrounding the collection and uploading of crop nutrition data can be found on the BFDC website (www. bfdc.com.au) under the 'Publications' tab. "The fertiliser industry's growing Fertcare® Accredited Advisor scheme recognises BFDC data as the best available in Australia and encourages its use when interpreting soil tests. "It's important that growers ask their advisers about the Fertcare® program and encourage them to use and contribute to the BFDC database." □ Grdc research codes dan00166, dan00132 More information: Dr Simon Speirs, NSW DPI, 0428 647 787, firstname.lastname@example.org Better fertiliser decisions for crop nutrition Fact sheet: www.grdc.com.au/GRDC-FS-BFDCN PHOTO: KELLIE PENFOLD A centralised source of Australian crop nutrition information will help guide more effective fertiliser decisions.
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