Effect of Different Fertilisers on Lucerne Production

Warrick Thorpe, chairman of Lucerne Australia, Neil Wittwer of Peracto and Shane Oster, executive committee member of Lucerne Australia discuss the lucerne seed fertiliser trial.

There is a lot of variance in what producers perceive as being adequate nutrition for lucerne seed production. This three year trial is designed to evaluate a range of fertiliser products to decide on the best fertiliser strategies to maximize seed production and profitability.

This is another video supported by the Social Media in Agriculture project funded by Australian Government’s Caring for our Country initiative.

Lucerne Australia has embarked on a Lucerne seed fertilizer yield trial, probably brought about by this data on forage yield and all those sort of things, but nothing specific on seed which is what our main industry is focused on. The reasons behind that is a lot of variances in what people perceive to be okay on their own systems.

The ranges of fertilizer can be anything from fifty to couple hundred kilos per hectare, getting similar sort of results per yield. So that when you’re having a couple of tough years that we’ve just been through, people to start asking a few more questions, like what can I do to maintain production and keep a tab on costs?

Different Fertilizers Affecting Yields

This trial’s basic be put in to see how different fertilizers affect different yields in the hope that at the end of the trial it’ll give people the confidence to makes some better decisions on, do they maintain their yield fertiliser regime year in year out? Can they change it for one or two years? Should we be trying some different fertilizers that we haven’t got out of their comfort zones in the past to give it a crack.

Their funding and research comes from RIRDC and without their support, the trial just wouldn’t be here. It is driven and run by Lucerne Australia. Its a completely independent trial theres no one fertilizer company pushing the boundaries one way or the other.

The fertilizer trial sees two sites trialed over a three-year period. We’re looking at both Lucerne established under a and irrigated at a dry-land site. So, we’ve got thirty different fertilizer treatments. The sites itself were soil and sap tested, prior to the start of the trial and we’ve determined that these sites themselves are actually very adequate in the nutrient content that they have.

We’re hoping that over the three year period we’re going to see a change in these nutrients that we’re tracking. Once we’ve got all of our yield analysis, we’ll then go on further to look at economics associated with the return on investment and the likes of of each of the product sets within the trial. There’s seven companies involved, and we’re comparing some of their specialized treatments to also what we consider are standard district practices.

Standard Practices for Fertilizer Products

For the standard practices where we are looking at the traditional plain super and super potash the impact of fertilizer company who provide these basic products to then blend their own. LawrieCo on board who traditionally are more biological in their in soil health, so they’re looking at a product called BioGraze. Some soils have got a product called Nutricare, which is based on the movement of calcium through their plants, and then got products brought from Stoller and also from Agrichem.

Again they’re more trace elements. We’re looking at three fertilizer applications in a season So, we’re looking at an autumn application, which is all the organic products. The trial side itself in it’s basic agronomy has been run by the the farmer, under his program which he uses across his farms.

The thing that we’re trying to encourage the farmers from the trial is, although we’re seeing at the moment, there’s no significant changes that that doesn’t mean we’re not seeing a result out of these trials. So we’re comparing different rates of product, so if we’re comparing a hundred, hundred-fifty and fifty kilos of plain super, there’s no significant difference between all of those, than we are actually showing a result.

Lucerne Trial Shows Efficiencies

We have to start looking at the efficiencies of what we’re applying. The crop potential looks pretty good here. We’ve had pretty good pod set across the district this year. There is a little bit of flowers stripping in the crop where we’ve had not all of the pods sit. Quite a few western flower thrip within this crop at the  moment which have are not expected to have an impact because they only have an impact on the flowers.

You can see how they’re attracted to the white. If you look into the seed crop you can see quite a fair pod set and then a lot of the earlier set, there’s not too many misses, and quite a good percentage of flowers have actually turned into pods. this crop, you know, it’s turning out quite well. It’s probably gonna be somewhere in the order of six-hundred-and-fifty, maybe seven-hundred kilograms per hectare.

We’re pretty happy with the trial site, and pretty excited about the next three to five years.