Farmers need to apply the right quantity of nutrients in the right place, at the right rate and right time to meet pasture and crop requirements and increase nutrient production. Efficient fertiliser management not only saves on costs, it also benefits the environment.
Managing fertiliser guidelines
Implementing good practices in fertiliser management involves:
- Conduct regular soil and tissue tests. Nutrient application rates need to be matched as closely as possible to pasture requirements. Sample and test each soil type or land management unit in each paddock at least once every three years or prior to reseeding pastures.
- Apply nutrients based on soil or tissue test results. Testing will confirm current nutrients levels in the soil and what is needed to enhance production levels.
- Use nutrient budgets when making fertiliser decisions. Nitrogen and phosphorus budgeting will allow you to better match nutrient inputs (e.g. imported feeds, fertilisers, effluent, etc.) to nutrient outputs (e.g. milk, meat, animals, exported feed, etc.) by only replacing the removed nutrients.
- Apply small amounts of fertiliser regularly after the break of season. Pasture nutrient requirements are greatest in spring (after wet and cold winter conditions have passed) when soil temperatures are favourable for pasture growth.
- Apply dairy effluent correctly as it is a valuable source of nutrients and organic matter. Reclaiming the nutrients in effluent will reduce your need for purchased fertilisers.
Using the right rate
- Fertiliser test strips can help define which fertilisers to apply. If the test strips accurately calibrated and varied e.g. 1x and 2x application rate, they can also recommend the best application rate. Do not apply fertilisers if soil test levels are above those where a pasture response is likely.
Applying in the right place
- Maintain a buffer between fertilised pastures and surface waters or drains.
- Ensuring there is no irrigation run-off after applying fertilisers. Never apply fertilisers to a buffer strip at the end of irrigation bays.
- Avoid applying fertilisers to animal hot spots (e.g. gateways, water troughs, shelter belts, stock camps) as these areas have high nutrient loadings already.
Applying at the right time
- Fertiliser applications should be timed to avoid run-off. Do not apply phosphorus within seven days of an anticipated run-off event or when soils are freely draining after heavy rains.