Nitrogen drives yield in winter cropping systems. However, environmental conditions in the later stages of crop development make fertiliser applications difficult. While available soil-moisture at topdressing may be known, future rainfall events, frosts, heat shocks, and the length of the grain-fill period, are all unknown and can have an impact on both yield and protein.

Many parts of southern and central NSW have received above-average rainfall this year, resulting in high yield potential but significant waterlogging. The challenge for growers is to determine how much nitrogen will be required to optimise yield and protein, and when is the best time to apply it.

Very high phosphorus (P) fertiliser prices mean it is a good time to review your application rates to ensure P is sensibly allocated between and within paddocks. In some instances, there will be an opportunity to reduce rates and decrease fertiliser costs, however, in the wrong circumstance this strategy could lead to significant yield penalties.

In the northern region, 2022 is shaping up to be another good winter crop season. Soil moisture profiles are full, and the rainfall outlook appears to be positive. However, soil-nitrogen levels are low. A tailored nitrogen strategy will be needed to optimise grain yield and returns.

In most areas of the southern region, 2022 is shaping up to be another good winter crop season. Soil moisture profiles are full, (saturated in some areas!) and the rainfall outlook appears to be positive. However, after two big nutrient removal seasons soil-nitrogen levels are low. A tailored nitrogen strategy will be needed to optimise grain yield and returns.

Growers who were able to complete their winter crop planting program in 2021 are now enjoying regular rainfall events to solidify their crop yield prospects.

Fertilisers placed into the soil are protected from any losses from fire or from volatilisation. This is one way to avoid potential losses.

In 2019, if you grew vetch hay, cut crops for hay instead of grain, or harvested straw as well as grain, you changed the balance of nutrients exported from your paddocks.

Many growers are seeing good yield prospects for their grain and canola crops and will be topdressing with nitrogen this season. While urea is the most widely used fertiliser for nitrogen topdressing, why not consider EASY N® liquid nitrogen this season? It’s an easy way to supply nitrogen to match crop demand through the boomspray.

The last thing we want to do when applying fertiliser at planting is to delay or reduce emergence. When fertilisers are placed with the seed, the potential for seed damage is always present.

Where cash flow is tight, many growers are likely to be looking to reduce costs at sowing time by reducing phosphorus (P) applications on some or all of their paddocks. The hope is that fertiliser phosphorus applied at the start of the 2018 season will still be available to the current crop.

Growing forage oats has generally been considered a low input system, relegated to the less productive parts of the farm, while better paddocks are sown to grain. However, this year, the need to rest pastures and provide fodder to hungry animals means the low input approach might not be appropriate.

Whether this year’s winter crop is coming off as fodder now or grain in the coming weeks and months, significant levels of nutrients will be removed from the paddock.

Dual purpose crops will be important this year as a source of feed for stock and grain at harvest, but to get the best out of these crops they will need a good start with nutrition, particularly nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P).

Canola can be very profitable for grain growers, but is also considered a riskier and more expensive crop to grow, with seed and fertiliser representing two of the major input costs.

As growers continue to replace wheat in their rotation with chickpeas to capitalise on higher market prices, there’s a growing need to update fertiliser programs – or face nutrient run down. Bede O’Mara, Incitec Pivot Fertilisers’ sub-tropical farming systems agronomist, says one of the major differences between growing wheat and chickpeas is that chickpeas remove significantly more potassium.

Incitec Pivot Fertilisers has conducted several nitrogen trials in grain crops in the Victorian Mallee since 2013.

It has long been noted that canola needs sulphur, but with 49 canola varieties available and more on the way this year, the question is do they all need the same amount of sulphur?

Given what’s invested in growing crops these days, growers can ill-afford to risk reduced yields due to trace element deficiencies.

We all know the importance of soil testing and the valuable data it can provide for fertiliser and soil amendment recommendations.

With topdressing now under way in many cereal and canola crops, it is timely to revisit the nitrogen topdressing decision tools and fundamentals so that what is left of the season can be managed effectively.

Topdressing nitrogen can be difficult to get right with respect to timing and rate. Given that nitrogen is the biggest barrier to yield (except for moisture), it requires careful planning and management.

In reviewing the results from our nitrogen trial in a grain and graze system at Millvale in New South Wales, it is clear these crops need special treatment to perform to their best.

A series of nutrient trials conducted in high rainfall cropping zones in 2016 is showing high levels of nutrient removal with high yields. Lead researcher on the project, Dr Malcolm McCaskill, Soil Research Scientist with DEDJTR Victoria, shares a preview of the results with Agronomy Community members and asks: what will it take to restore soil fertility for 2017?