Key crop nutrient management issues in the Western Australia grains industry: a review

W. Chen, R.W. Bell, R.F. Brennan, J.W. Bowden, A. Dobermann, Zed Rengel, W. Porter

    Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature review

    28 Citations (Scopus)


    In the present paper, we review 4 topics that were identified through extensive consultation with stakeholders as issues of high impact and influence for the grains industry: improving soil testing and interpretation; role of fluid fertilisers in the Western Australian (WA) grains industry; using spatial and temporal information to improve crop nutrient management, particularly for nitrogen; and developing recommendations for managing emerging nutrient deficiencies. The key findings are summarised below.

    To further improve soil testing and interpretation, the review suggests that future research should focus on addressing soil sampling and interpretation questions, as they are important factors affecting the accuracy of fertiliser recommendations with changing cropping practices. There have been several studies to compare fluid with granular forms of P in WA, but the responses have not, so far, been consistent. More work may be needed to understand different crop response to fluid P fertiliser additions, particularly on low pH soils in WA. An understanding of the long-term performance of fluid P will also require an assessment of the residual value of fluid P compared with granular P under field conditions. Precision agriculture (PA) technology has potential to improve crop nutrient management and farm profitability in WA. The review indicates that understanding both spatial and temporal yield variation is critical for the successful adoption of PA technology by growers. The review also suggests that in WA, there is a need to explore the use of different layers of spatial information for determining management zones. In response to wide adoption of no-till and stubble retention cropping systems, increased use of fluid fertilisers together with advanced application technologies, and increased interest in cropping in the high rainfall zone, there is need to better understand growers’ practices and attitudes to crop nitrogen (N) management, and thus to better position research and extension activities. The review also suggests the need to evaluate new fertiliser products and site-specific N management concepts and develop N management practices for waterlogging-prone soils for improved N use efficiency in cereal production systems in WA. The negative balance of magnesium (Mg) observed in WA cropping systems, together with the information reviewed on factors affecting soil Mg content and crop response to Mg application across Australia, suggests that there is a need to evaluate the risk and impact of Mg deficiency on acidic sandy soils of WA.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-18
    JournalSoil Research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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