Crop Nutrition, Better fertiliser Decisions
for Cropping – with Tony Cox, NSW Dept of Primary Industries. Welcome everybody to the October Soils Network
of Knowledge webinar. As many of you listening will know, this webinar series is part of
a Soils Community of Interest around soils. And now I’ll introduce Tony, and Tony is
the National Coordinator for Crop Nutrition. And he’s going to be talking about crop
nutrition and the making better fertiliser decisions for cropping BFDC project. And as
I said Tony’s the National Coordinator for Crop Nutrition, he manages the More Profit
from Crop Nutrition and the Better Fertiliser Decisions for Cropping projects. Tony’s
got a background in cropping research in Northwest New South Wales. And he’s been a District
Agronomist for DPI in the past in the New South Wales Central Tablelands. Tony’s project
is closely linked to the eXtensionAUS Crop Nutrition Project which provides online crop
nutrition and Tony will mention a little bit about that. Alright thanks Luke. Yeah I manage the More
Profit from Crop Nutrition project and the BFDC project. They’re both GRDC funded initiatives
with New South Wales DPI co-investing in them. While I manage them I must recognise that
I sit on a committee with three other esteemed soil nutritionists. Ken Peverill, Mark Conyers,
and Warick Dougherty and the four of us manage the project and make sure that it heads on
smoothly. I’m going to be talking today about both projects. The first project is MPCNII,
which is funded through GRDC and New South Wales DPI coordinate, we collaborate in running
it, and we’ve got some co-investment in that as well. The second part I’ll be talking
about BFDCII which is the Better Fertiliser Decisions support for Cropping tool that’s
online. So I’ll kick off, MPCNII, it’s a national
project, GRDC initiative. Obviously we’re co-investing in it. It’s running in the
north, south and west grain regions. The project’s been running since 2012, and it’s no entered
the second phase of the project, hence the MPCNII. The object of the project was to improve
the return on investment from fertiliser inputs by improving the nutrient efficiency of crops,
improving the capacity of soils to provide nutrients, reducing the soil’s propensity
to lose the lock-up nutrients, develop improved fertiliser product formulation and design,
and look at the use of potentially valuable low cost and waste inputs.
We had some goals with MPCN and that was to increase adoption of nutrition knowledge across
Australia; improve coordination and communication and extension across the grains and fertiliser
industries. And I think with the decline in extension being undertaken by government departments,
I think this is a really good aim we’ve tried to really meet. Improved tools that
are used by grain growers and advisers to improve nutrient use efficiency. And documentation
of emerging ideas and capacity challenges. The project is split into six themes. And
I’ll list all the research projects with each theme. I won’t talk about the research
projects in any great length because there is quite a number of them. The first theme
is to make nutrient use efficiency traits available to plant breeders in adapted backgrounds.
The second theme is to better match N, P, K and S inputs to meet crop demand and minimise
losses and tie-up. The third is to make better use of micro-nutrients to correct deficiencies
and enhance drop yield. Fourth, develop and test new fertiliser products and adjuvants.
Five, provide information to growers to make effective fertiliser decisions. And six is
coordination of a program with a lasting legacy of analysed, reported and published information.
So in Theme 1 we have two projects currently – Phosphorus use efficiency: Rhizosheath
project. And Quantifying and understanding root variation in winter cereals. In Theme
2 we have An accurate soil test for available soil Sulphur and potassium. Regional soil
testing and nutrient guidelines in the west. The same in the north, and the same in the
southern region. We looked at nitrogen fertiliser response curves: filling the gap for Western
Australia. And defining nitrogen response surfaces for sorghum and canola in the northern
grains region. Theme 2 has got the bulk of the research projects,
and with the research projects, some of these projects are ending this year, but we’ve
also picked up eight new projects. Six being one year scoping studies, and two being ongoing
research projects. Improving nitrous oxide abatement in higher rainfall cropping systems
and developing N response curves. Reassessing the value of fixed nitrogen. Managing potassium
nutrition to alleviate crop stress. Assessing nutritional benefits of clay amendment and
cultivation of sands. And benchmarking wheat yield against nitrogen use. Theme 2 continued.
Nitrogen and water interactions. Nutrient performance indicators. Phosphorus requirements
to accompany high N fertiliser levels. Nutrient stratification and sub-surface soil testing.
Evaluating testing methods for P and K soil reserves. And deep placement of nutrients:
organic matter and nutrient availability. Theme 3 we look at managing micronutrient
deficiencies in Australia, in cropping systems in Eastern Australia. And we’ve also got
a research project looking at micronutrient deficiencies in Western Australia.
Theme 4 we’re looking at soil spectroscopy which is looking at hand-held technology to
see if you can actually pick up nutrients with this hand-held machine. Tactical Folar
P fertilisation of dryland crops. And fertilisers from wastes, which has moved onto phase two.
Theme 5, analysis frameworks to support profitable fertiliser use. Making better fertiliser decisions
for cropping systems BFDC. And with that there’s three extension projects associated, one in
the north, one in the south and one in the west. And these are really important in delivering
the key messages coming out of the research. And you may have attended one of the extension
workshops being run in the north, or the south or the west. The north is being run by the
Department of Agriculture up there, Kara Clepper. You may have attended something that she’s
run. In the south it’s BCG, and in the west it’s the Department of Ag running the extension
over there. We also have other extension methodologies, which I’ll cover a bit later.
Theme 6 is the Coordination of a program with a lasting legacy of anaylsed, reported and
published information. And this is where New South Wales DPI come in as program coordination
and communications. So we coordinate the project in terms of getting extension messages out
there, as well as the extension projects, we look at feeding information through GRDC’s
comms unit. We are also using eXtensionAUS as one of our methods of getting information
out. We’ve also got a post-doc student in CSIRO who’s working on improving nutrient
use, efficiency in wheat. And he’s had trials, field trials this year, which I went over
and had a look at. So he’s just trying to endeavour to finish his post-doc and look
at the improving nutrient use efficiency. Every year we have an annual workshop, which
I think is one of the most important features of the MPCNII phase two project. The research
is presented to peers and GRDC panel members and the GRDC manager. And this is where they
actually get their research peer-reviewed by other scientists. And a lot of these other
scientists have worked together for many years. And I must say that these scientists are the
leading Australian crop nutritionists, soil scientists that are around. You’ve got people
like Mike Bell, Mark Conyers, Roger Armstrong, Richard Bell, Ross Brennan, Craig Scanlan,
Nigel Wilhelm, Shaun Mason, Mike McLaughlin, there’s many more, but just to give you an
idea that these are the sort of people involved in MPCN. The researchers give us a synopsis
of the research, and this year we tried to get them to look at what’s new to science
and what relevance this has to industry. So the research is trying to look at what new
science are they actually developing in their research and how this can be adapted and adopted
by industry to actually increase yield. So we’re really looking at trying to increase
yield as one of the outcomes. After the workshop the Program Advisory Committee, which is made
up of the PLC and the GRDC panel members and some soil scientists. We get together and
we discuss the progress of the research and the outputs of the research talked about and
we can make any adjustments following that workshop.
So the second part of the talk is about BFDC, Making better fertiliser decisions for cropping
systems in Australia. I’ll refer to this as BFDC. And this is the real crux of I suppose
where you can get your crop nutrition critical nutrient guidelines from. So this is what
you look like when you come to the opening page of it.
I’ll give you some background to it. It’s supported by the Grains Research and Development
Corporation, and it’s led by the New South Wales Department of Industries. But it was
a collaborative effort to actually establish BFDC, and these were all the partners that
were involved in getting it together. So it’s not something that New South Wales DPI has
just come up with or GRDC has just come up with, we had to go around and actually get
all the trial data collaboratively, and we had to use other agencies and private companies
to try and get the BFDC database together. So the reason it really came about was that
fertiliser input costs, about 25% of variable costs per annum, and a lot of fertiliser decisions
weren’t being made or relying on soil test knowledge, so this was a real issue that needed
to be addressed. And there was a fair bit of level of scepticism by growers that soil
tests don’t reflect crop response and that recommendations that they were given may have
been biased due to biased data. So phase one of BFDC sought to address this by collation
of all public and private soil test crop response data for N, P, K and S that it could get its
hands on. So we went back thirty years, going into people’s sheds, into shipping containers
looking at what data they’d actually had, or what trials they’d undertaken. Looking
at it and then entering it into a database. The crop types that are included are cereals,
pulses and oilseeds. One of the things that was picked up by BFDC is the fact that there’s
very little data on pulses. There’s a lot been done on cereals, there’s been a lot done
on canola, but when you’re talking about your minor pulse crops or major pulse crops
if you’re a major pulse grower, there is a real hole in the data in that crop area.
The data is stored in a single repository for access by approved users and I think you
actually have to undergo some training to get access to it. And I’ll talk to you a
little bit about how you get access to it. But the beauty of the database is that it’s
able to be interrogated by crop, region, soil classification and environment. And a lot
of other agronomic filters. So I think that’s the beauty of the database. It doesn’t give
you a fertiliser recommendation out of it, but it will give you the critical nutrient
levels that you need to be chasing for your maximum yield for your clients.
So the interrogator is used to derive soil test crop response calibrations relationships
and critical soil test values based on specified criteria. So you need to put the criteria
into the database to get your nutrient levels out. It’s recognised by Fertiliser Australia
and Fertcare as the best available dataset in Australia. And to maintain Fertcare accreditation,
fertiliser companies and agribusiness advisors must use best available data to formulate
fertiliser use recommendations. Soil test-crop response relationships now can be derived
from a large body of trial data using a series of identified and agronomically valid filtering
tools. PBI to interpret Colwell P tests for example.
So some of the data requirements, trial data requirements that go into it is we need to
have a site location, crop type, experimental design, soil sampling depth, soil test method
and the units reported. Mean grain yield, tonne per hectare, for each treatment. Data
owner and custodian, and Y0, Ymax and the equation fitted treatment yields. So the trial
data that goes into this database has to be of a high standard when it gets put in to
make sure there’s no issues with it. So that you can have real confidence in the outputs
of the database. Some of the sampling depths that are included.
This is some of the information that you can filter and interrogate the database on. Obviously
you’ve got 0-10, going down to 90-120 centimeters for some of your deep end sort of soil tests.
Some of the laboratory analytical methods included so you can actually interrogate the
database if you’re really interested in Colwell P or if you want to look at BSES,
you can change those filtering tabs. You know if you’re on the (unknown word – 13.58)
soils of South Australia, obviously Colwell P may not be the most appropriate soil analytical
method that you would want to be looking at. So you can change that filtering methodology
there, and get the appropriate analytical method that you’re chasing.
So interpreting the BFDC interrogator output, when you look over here we’re looking at
90$ of your Y max, with 90% and above being optimum. Below 90% being below optimum, and
anything above optimum, you’re really not getting any economic return for your input
of fertiliser. So when you come to the BFDC webpage, you’ll
come up to this page here. That’s the actual web address there that you can enter in. I’ll
give you a couple of minutes to write that down while I go through a few of these tabs.
You’ve obviously got the background, it’s got some background information. The BFDC
Interrogator is where you go to log in and we’ve got these other tabs here that talk
about included data, calibrations, how to gain access to publications, and how to contact
us. So what you would do, you would click on BFDC Interrogator. It’ll bring you to
this page here. If you have a username and password, this is where you enter it. If you
don’t you have to click on this button here, register, and it will bring you to this page
here. I won’t go through all the tabs and all the buttons and all the filtering, because
these are screen grabs and are quite small. And to actually get access to this you can
do the online training, or you can do face-to-face training, which takes about 3 ½ hours. So
I think I’ll just, I’ll be very general in terms of how you actually gain access.
But once you’ve gone to BFDC Interrogator, you click on Go to the online BFDC training
course. And that will bring you to this page here where you enter your name, your organisation,
your email. You have to do a pre-workshop questionnaire. You submit this and then you
should receive and email from Chris Dowling with a log on and a password.
So once you receive your log on and your password you enter it in and you’ll come to a home
page such as this. I’ve got extra tabs up here, obviously because I’ve got admin access.
But for yourselves as advisors, I’d be interested in clicking on Annual Trials, this tab here.
You click on that and it will bring up this page here which has a lot of drop-down tabs
on it, which I think is a very powerful tool for advisors to be able to use. So for this
case study I’m going to select Phosphorus, dry land, years all to all. The reason we
put this in is that our farming systems have really changed over the last thirty years.
So a lot of this trial data goes back quite a number of years. So if you think about our
four cultivation farming systems, and now we’ve changed to minimum till, the effect
that that has on the nutrient stratification in the soil profile, you’ll find that a
lot of those nutrients are now getting stratified and are very close to the top of the soil
profile. So that can make a difference on how you interrogate. The crops that you can
choose, you can choose all crops, or you have a list here of numerous crops from cereals
to pulses to oilseeds. I’ve clicked on wheat. You can click on, it works on the Australian
soil classification, so you need to know your soil classification for your region. You can
either click on all soils or I’ve here clicked on vertisol black and vertisol grey, you then
have to click on trials that satisfy the selection criteria. I’ve selected New South Wales, so
this will bring up all the trials in New South Wales around phosphorus. You’ve got a drop-down
menu here, which you choose Colwell P, 0-10, you then click plot data by crop. And it will
give you a calibration curve here. 43 P treatments. And it’s important to sort of think about
this calibration curve here because this is where the critical nutrient ranges come from.
You’ve got a lot of data out here, scattered data, but if you come down to the soil test
calibration, this is probably the most important thing that you need to be looking at. And
for 90% of your relative yield your critical nutrient value is 16. So 16 milligrams per
kilo of phosphorus being measured by Colwell P in a 0-10 centimetre range. So if you’ve
got a soil test and it comes back and you’re looking at a Colwell P of say 12, and you
know that your critical range is 16, or your critical nutrient level is 16, then you need
to be looking at how you make a fertiliser recommendation to meet that critical nutrient
range. Being agronomists and advisors in your own
area you will know your own soils. And obviously any local soil issues or conditions that come
into play. I think you really need to take that into account as advisors, you don’t
just go straight off the database, you need to take in your local knowledge. But if you
think you can push the system, and you think oh well I’ve got a full profile of moisture,
the season is looking really good, then you can probably look at your 95% soil test calibration
and lift your critical nutrient level up to 22. It gives you a confidence range of 15
to 31. So I think if you can use your local knowledge, understand what’s been removed
by the crop before, and sort of any other soil constraints than you can make that decision.
But you’re basing it on real science. This has been based on scientifically done research
trials around Australia. So now I’m going to have a look at all soils.
So we’re going to click on cereal barley / cereal wheat and we’re going to click
on all soils. We’ve still got New South Wales selected, dry land winter, 507 P trials
fit. Again when you change anything, you’ve got to go back in and change your parameters,
so 0-10. And it gives you a whole lot of different data, a new calibration curve for all soil
types in New South Wales. If you go down to your critical nutrient level you’ll find
that it’s changed. It’s gone to 28, and that’s because you’ve moved away from the
vertisols and you’re including every soil type in New South Wales.
One of the features of BFDC which I think is really valuable, as advisors if you’re
based in the Riverina you don’t want to know what’s happening in northern New South
Wales due to the soil type, different climate. You can actually draw a polygon around any
of the trials that you see and you’re interested in finding out information. And to do this
you go to this box, click on draw polygon, make four clicks and then you have to click
complete. And that will zoom into an area with all those research trials in there to
give you your local regional data. So if we now plot data by crop, we come up
with 98 P treatments. And for that southern area of New South Wales, 90% relative yield,
your critical nutrient level is around 33 milligrams per kilo of phosphorus measured
by Colwell P. I’ll just go back. One of the things that
you can do is you’ve got all this data, a lot of it fitting in the calibration curve,
but if you look out here you’ve got some outliers. One of the beauties of it is if you are interested
you can click on this outlier here, and it will take you to a trial and give you a reason
why it’s an outlier. This is one of the trials done by Dr Mark Conyers out at Wagga
Wagga. And if you have a look here the trial stress factors you can see it was really having
a severe drought. So that’s one of the reasons why it’s an outlier.
One of the other things you can do is if you’re really interested in filtering down to getting
trial data that shows anything above maximum of two tonne. Like I’ve put two tonne in,
but you could if you’re in a high rainfall area and you’re really interested in knowing
about yields over four tonnes or five tonnes, this is where you can filter in, put in a
maximum yield of two tonnes. If you know your growing season rainfall and you want to only
look at that, the trials that meet that data, you can put the growing season rainfall in
here, your soil pH, organic carbon. You can also filter for below four tonnes if you’re
in a dry land or you can just leave it completely blank. So when you filter for that, it gives
you a different calibration again, but it’s still giving you that 90% relative yield,
33 milligrams per kilo of phosphorus measured by Colwell P.
So now if we go to Western Australia, if there’s any Western Australians listening, then the
beauty of this database is that it’s a national database. You can click on nitrogen, Western
Australia, barley, wheat, all soil types. And what that will do is that it will bring
up this window here and it will show you all the research trials done in Western Australia
meeting that criteria on nitrogen. You can select any measurement of nitrogen that you’re
interested in looking at. And you’ve obviously got your depths that you can select. I’ve
selected 0-10 centimetres, and it’s given us 475 treatment series for wheat and canola
actually. So if you go down and look at your 90% relative yield, being mindful that this
is being measured from 0 to 15 centimetres. And obviously with nitrogen we want to be
looking at deeper nutrient milligrams per kilos, deeper in the profile. So this is just
one way of checking that 0 to 15. You can go back and you can check deeper and work
it out by adding up those different milligrams per kilo and coming up with an idea of how
many kilos per hectare you’ve got of nitrogen sitting in a profile.
So now for the Victorians, we go back and we have a look at phosphorus in 0-10 centimetres.
And we’ve selected barley feed, wheat, faba bean, field bean and canola. It’s giving
a 90% relative yield of 24 milligrams per kilo of phosphorus. So you can see whatever
region you’re in you can actually interrogate it for your local soil type, your local crops,
and you can put in N, P, K or S depending on what you’re interested in looking at.
South Australia, this is where the calcarosols can become a bit of an issue, in terms of
trying to look at measuring different nutrients. So here we’ve selected phosphorus, all cereal
wheat, and this is the calibration curve you get for South Australia looking at Colwell
P. Obviously Colwell P is probably not the best measurement that you use for measuring
phosphorus in some of those calcareous soils. So that’s where you can filter down and change
it to whatever analytical method you use locally. Again this is probably the most important
thing you should be looking at as advisors in trying to meet that critical nutrient level,
to get 90% of your Y max. One of the other things that you can do is
actually plot it by… Sorry Tony to interrupt. Just about five minutes
Tony. Yep okay. So you can plot data by soil type.
And when you do that it will give you all the different soil types right next to the
calibration curve, so you can see where your soil type sits in relation to others.
So I might just go through, obviously that’s another P-treatment calibration. This is a
really important aspect of BFDC. If you want to actually look at yield increase, so you’ve
got a soil test and you think “can I get some yield increase by adding phosphorus?”
When you click on that, this will come up. It’s not a calibration curve, but what it
will show you is if you have a soil test value of 10 milligrams per kilo of phosphorus, potentially
looking at 2.15 tonnes extra yield increase by adding P. So this is a really important
tool for advisors if you’re sitting down with your clients and going well your Colwell
P is quite low, if we add phosphorus we’ve got a potential yield increase that we can
really benefit economically from. Okay we’ve got potassium again, just to
show you that you can interrogate the database for any nutrient, potassium, nitrogen, sulfur
or phosphorous. And it gives you in your 0-10 it gives you another critical nutrient range
there. The most interesting new thing that we’ve
probably added to it this year is the multi curve fitting. And this is where you can actually
interrogate for different soil types. And you can have the soil types next to each other
and just look at their different calibrations in terms of Colwell P. So looking at your
90% of your Colwell P on a Kandosol, it might be 25. Whereas on Chromosol you’d be looking
at around about 30. So I think that as advisors and agronomists, that’s another powerful tool
for you if you’ve got different soil types. The farm that I work on has got four different
soil types and we have to treat those soil types differently and they all have different
P responses. We have an online data entry tool, but you
need access to utilise this feature. And it’s open to researchers, agribusiness and industry
to provide data. The database is ongoing and we want to really keep it alive and keep it
fed with data to make it really relevant to industry. This is what you’ll come to if
you’re entering data. I won’t worry about going through that unless you’re actually
really, you have access to it, and then I’ll spend a bit of time with you on how to enter
your data. So where to from here? Currently we’re formulating
a BFDC legacy plan and that is costing it out to be maintained on CSU’s server, have
someone maintain it and make sure there’s no issues with it. But we’re also looking
at costing out, getting senior soil scientists from around Australia to review the data every
three years to make sure that it still has relevance, the critical nutrient ranges are
still relevant to industry, and to make sure that there’s no real issues there. The universities
are adopting it. Currently it’s being taught in UNE and CSU. So all the new advisors and
agronomists coming out of those universities have undergone BFDC training and are authorised
users. We’re looking at Murdoch University using it. And that’s probably where we’ll
be looking at trying to get more adoption from. The ongoing trial data entry tool. We
actually have online training for it, you can do it, which I mentioned the online training.
But we are doing face-to-face training, which is about 3 ½ hours face-to-face with myself
and Janet, and we’ll run you through the training and you’ll be authorised at the
end of this. We take you through a bit of background, we take you through some steps,
some formulas, and then you have to do some case studies. Currently I’ve run four of these
in New South Wales, and I’m looking at running another two in each region per year. But depending
on demand we may increase that. So in summary I’d have to say it’s probably
the best data set available for advisors and agronomists to use to make their fertiliser
decisions. I’d probably really ask you guys to be aware of the MPCNII project and BFDC
projects because a lot of the crop nutrition research is coming out of MPCN. There are
obviously other crop nutrition trials being done elsewhere by other agencies and other
projects. But MPCN, I’d really look out for it. Try and be aware of that branding
and think what can I get out of this for myself and my clients? Provides really critical nutrient
levels to base your fertiliser recommendations on. It’s able to be interrogated for soil,
environment and agronomic filters. And the data is coming from some of Australia’s
best crop nutritionists and soil scientists. And I think we’re really in a lucky position
with MPCN that we’ve got such great scientists working with us on crop nutrition.
Where can you get information from? We’re working closely with eXtensionAUS, look in
Ground Cover, GRDC updates, obviously we’ll be releasing a lot of information in GRDC
updates. We’ve done a Crop and Pasture Science journal special edition. Agronomy conference,
there was some papers presented there from MPCN research. Media releases, field days,
radio. I’ll be doing a feature in Landline later in 2016. The three extension projects
with Liam Ryan, Kara Klepper and Alli Elliot, I think there’s a lot of information coming
out of those projects, so be aware of those. Fact sheets and potentially we can be contributing
to GrowNotes. I’ll just put this page in, this is eXtensionAUS
and I think this is a really great place to get your crop nutrition information from.
They also have crop diseases on there, but a lot of MPCN and researchers are doing two
minute videos that are being placed onto eXtensionAUS. And I’ll pull it up there, I’d really
like to thank GRDC, and Luke Beange for organising the webinar. But you can get more information
from the BFDC website, the GRDC website. If you put in MPCN into the website and search
for it it will come up with some really detailed information on MPCN. And if you want further
information I’ve put my email address there and also my assistant’s Janet Clyde, we
can supply information to you. And again there’s the eXtensionAUS website.
These are the contributors to MPCN and BFDC and I think we need to highlight that again
it’s not just New South Wales DPI, it’s not just GRDC, it’s a national project with
input from a lot of agencies. And thank you very much.