Introducing EEF60: cane farm fertiliser trials

Introducing EEF60: cane farm fertiliser trials

CANEGROWERS has been awarded a contract to run a series of 60 on farm trials of enhanced efficiency fertilisers and is now looking for growers to host the sites.

Dubbed EEF60, the project will run across three growing seasons in a bid to identify if they can meet the aims of improving nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) while reducing losses without impacting farm profitability or productivity.

Working with Sugar Research Australia, the sites will be selected for a variety of soil and climatic conditions to host the controlled and replicated field trials with 30 sites to be in the Wet Tropics region, 15 in the Burdekin, 10 in the Central Region and 5 in the Southern growing region.

Trial design

The trials will be conducted on a commercial scale using large replicated strips and will include:
1.    Nitrogen at the Six Easy Steps (6ES) rate with Urea
2.    Nitrogen at 20% less than the 6ES rate with Urea
3.    Nitrogen at 20% less than the 6ES rate with ENTEC/Agromaster blend
4.    Nitrogen at 20% less than the 6ES rate with either ENTEC, or Agromaster, or eNtrench or other (decided based on grower or regional interest)
5.    Small plot (6 rows x 15 m) with 0 N (used to calculate how much N is available from the soil)

The treatments will be replicated three times at each site. Yield will be assessed by assigning each strip as a separate rake to the mill. Sampling of the soil and crop will also be conducted to determine nitrogen uptake and other NUE parameters. Environmental losses (run‐off and deep drainage) will be assessed at six of the 60 sites.

Soil sampling will occur immediately after harvest of the previous crop in order to determine the appropriate nitrogen rates and, where possible, this will be done in conjunction with EM soil mapping.

Trial site requirements

Trials are likely to require 4-6 ha, preferable with uniform soil type across the block. Sites with poor drainage (potential for run-off and waterlogging), very good drainage (potential for leaching) and late season harvests will be targeted as this is where EEFs are more likely to be beneficial.

Sites that have had a legume fallow or mill-mud in the previous fallow period will be avoided as the nitrogen from these practices may interfere with the ability to assess EEFs. However, there is some flexibility in some regions and this should be discussed with the project team (see contacts below).

Most sites will commence in the 1R crop and will be required for three seasons.

Growers who participate in the project will have access to extension and agronomic support to develop a nutrient management plan (if they do not already have one). This plan will also identify other potential blocks on farm where EEFs could be tried.

The results will provide an assessment of EEFs specific to the growers’ farm, including productivity and profitability, which will allow the grower to make informed decisions about the use of these products in the future
Nitrogen fertiliser for the trial site will be provided by the project. Nitrogen fertiliser application, including calibration, will be performed by the project team, although assistance from the grower would also be highly beneficial.

Growers interested in taking part in the project should contact:
Wet tropics - Julian Connellan (SRA) 4056 4514
Burdekin, Central and South - Nick Hill (SRA) 4963 6807

Funding for this project is provided by the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy (Reef Trust 4) and the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.