DAIRY FARMS continue to use increasing amounts of, and are becoming increasingly reliant on, nitrogen fertiliser. Used correctly, N fertiliser gives farmers the ability to grow large amounts of additional pasture or crop herbage at a cost-competitive price.
However, poor N fertiliser practices can result in higher cost forage and an increased risk of N losses to the environment. A new local research project being conducted by the University of Melbourne is investigating methods to improve N fertiliser recommendations across diﬀerent times of the year.
A key aspect of the research is to gain a better understanding of the amount of N that becomes available to the pasture from the mineralisation of soil reserves at diﬀerent times of the year.
The ﬁndings will be used to develop a tool for farmers and advisers that will reliably estimate mineralised-available N so that N fertiliser inputs can be adjusted accordingly across the growing season.
Another component of the project is the investigation and development of new technologies to assess the N requirements of, and likely N fertiliser responses of, pastures at diﬀerent times of the year that can then be used in these new farmer and adviser tools.
The technologies being investigated include the use of hyperspectral cameras mounted on drones and the use of satellite imagery. The project’s ﬁeld trials are being conducted on both dryland and irrigated dairy pastures on the property of Danny and Graeme Croft at Mepunga West.
The project is supported by funding from the Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Department as part of its Rural R&D for Proﬁt program, the University of Melbourne and Dairy Australia. WestVic Dairy and the University of Melbourne are jointly hosting a ﬁeld day at the trial site on Friday, February 23.
The program includes Professor Richard Eckard presenting the latest research ﬁndings and recommendations for N fertiliser use on dairy pastures and demonstrations of the use of drones and other new technologies that are being evaluated for use in the farmer and adviser tools.