Kevin and Helen Jones Foster focus farm

Year of study:

2009-11

Lead organisation & collaborators:

ONFARM consulting, John Mulvany

Kevin and Helen Jones

GippsDairy

Gardiner Foundation

Dairy Australia

Contact:

John Mulvany

PO box 461, Leongatha Vic 3953

T: (03) 5664 3393

 

Best available science assessment:

Objectives

Conceptual model

Study design

Soil analysis

Production & financial

Method reporting

Data analysis

Results reporting

Publication

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Project details

Objectives:

The trial was undertaken to assess pasture responses to fertiliser application, with the ultimate aim to increase dry matter production and inform decisions on profitability of lime and fertiliser use.

Hypotheses:

Soil pH affects the availability of nutrients. The use of lime to increase pH may be required in some instances so as to improve the availability of nutrients and manage exchangeable aluminium.

In addition, naturally acidic soils may have a lower pH range to achieve acceptable pasture growth. The addition of lime may be required to manage the soils within its operating pH range for the area.

Basis:

Soil tests are often an unreliable guide to pasture response to fertiliser and lime. This makes assessing the profitability of fertiliser choices difficult. Test strips combined with soil testing improves skill in predicting pasture response to fertiliser and lime.

On this farm, a pre-test was conducted. Lime was then applied and follow up soil test conducted. There were both anecdotal and soil test results that informed productivity decisions.

Location details

Management practices tested:

Lime application (test strip)

Trial site details:

Wet climate

River silt (loam and clay loams)

Pre-trial management:

Phosphorus/sulphur levels were relatively high. Only need modest maintenance rates. When farmers feed pastures they need to address lime and micronutrients.

Dairy farm (380 cows)- 34-35 days (wet period, coinciding with calving), in September back to 25 day rotation.

40ha fixed irrigation sprinkler

Previous history of fertiliser application:

N (kg/ha) P (kg/ha) K (kg/ha) S (kg/ha)
500kg 2&1 29.5 83.5 36.5
700kg Urea 350 0 0 0
700kg 3&1 46.2 88.9 57.5
800kg 2&1 47.2 133 58.4

Trial management:

Management is guided by a support group which meets to discuss performance measures and adoptive practices

Results:

Summary of key findings of trial:

It is important to consider the productivity and performance outputs of farms to inform the management of the property.

Variation in soil pH with time and management influence:

4t/ha lime application resulted in increase of 0.2 in pH 12 months later.

Date Area Paddock pH (CaCl2/H20)
December 2002 Green 4.4/5.4
February 2004 Green 4.6/5.5
December 2009 Over River 16 & 17 4.9/5.6
January 2011 16 & 17 4.7/5.5
December 2002 Irrigation 5.0/5.8
February 2004 Irrigation 4.8/5.6
February 2005 Irrigation 5.1/5.8
December 2009 Irrigation 20 to 23 5.0/5.8
January 2011 20 to 23 4.8/5.7
December 2009 New purchase 35 & 32 5.1/5.9
January 2011 New purchase 35 & 32 4.8/5.8
December 2002 Richards 4.6/5.4
February 2004 Richards 4.6/5.5
December 2009 Front 6 to 8 4.5/5.2
January 2011 Front 6 to 8 4.8/5.8

 

Other soil treatments:

Date Area Paddock P K S
December 2002 Green 12 171 12
February 2004 Green 17.2 175 9.8
December 2009 Over River 16 & 17 23.9 148 13.6
January 2011 16 & 17 28.1 142 17.5
December 2002 Irrigation 23 160 33
February 2004 Irrigation 24 181 16
February 2005 Irrigation 25 204 14
December 2009 Irrigation 20 to 23 31.4 279 18
January 2011 20 to 23 34.5 267 20.5
December 2009 New purchase 35 & 32 18.2 142 7.6
January 2011 New purchase 35 & 32 19.1 148 14.6
December 2002 Richards 20 133 14
February 2004 Richards 21 107 8.2
December 2009 Front 6 to 8 28.4 135 12.8
January 2011 Front 6 to 8 29.7 130 16.3

Experimental design:

2009 to December 2011(2 years)

On this farm, a pre- test was conducted. Then applied lime and conducted some follow up tests. There were both anecdotal and soil test results.

4t/ha lime broadcast was applied, high EMB lime (fine), tested 12 months later- pH up by 0.2. No visual growth effect. Economics of situation meant that this approach is a ‘soil insurance policy’ for the farmer. Where there are adequate funds, try to get lime on farms with low pH (~20% of the farm). Every 5 years. When paddocks cultivated and resown, 4-5t/ha opportunity to incorporate it. Cut off point is dependent on individual farms.

N (kg/ha) P (kg/ha) K (kg/ha) S (kg/ha) Lime (t/ha)
2010/11 293 35 114 41 4

Trial design/layout:

Whole-of-farm approach

Production Measurements:

Silage crops were late and of average quality

Cost and value of production:

Fertilisers $98,574 spent.

 

Reporting:

How results have been reported:

Field day booklet

How a copy of any relevant reports can be obtained:

John Mulvany

Soil Sampling method:

Soil tests conducted (pre and post) by Farmright Technical Services

pH, P, K and full spectrum of chemical analysis. The following identifies the measured soil test elements between 2009 and 2011 over the different paddocks.

Analysis December 2009 January 2011
35/32 16/17 20,21,22 6,7,8 6/8 16/17 32/35 20-23
Phosphorus (Olsen) (Mg/kg) 18.2 23.9 31.4 28.4 29.7 28.1 19.1 34.5
Potassium (Colwell) (mg/kg) 142.0 148.0 279.0 135.0 130.0 142.0 148.0 267.0
Sulphur (KCl40) (mg/kg) 7.6 13.6 18.0 12.8 16.3 17.5 14.6 20.5
pH (1:5 water) 5.9 5.6 5.8 5.2 5.8 5.5 5.8 5.7
pH (CaCl2) 5.14 4.9 5.0 4.5 4.8 4.7 4.8 4.8
Salinity (1:5 water) (dS/m) 0.08 0.09 0.15 0.10 0.11 0.13 0.11 0.16
Organic carbon (%) 5.02 4.63 4.72 4.12 3.55 5.28 6.08 5.75
Nitrate (mg/kg) 6.0 7.0 13.0 10.0 1.0 8.0 5.0 18.0
Ammonium (mg/kg) 15.0 6.0 8.0 7.0 11.0 15.0 5.0 7.0
Copper (mg/kg) 1.06 1.49 1.81 0.54 0.40 1.66 0.99 2.03
Zinc (mg/kg) 2.77 3.76 4.98 3.05 3.41 3.96 3.14 5.46
Manganese (mg/kg) 16.6 47.3 71.8 25.8 29.6 69.6 18.4 90.4
Iron (mg/kg) 395.3 399.3 434.0 455.0 287.3 299.0 343.4 316.3
Boron (mg/kg) 0.6 0.8 0.8 0.5 0.5 0.7 0.7 0.9
Phosphorus (mg/kg) 39.0 69.0 84.0 64.0 80.0 85.0 47.0 105.0
Calcium (meq/100g) 11.30 11.25 10.07 5.25 6.55 9.53 10.85 8.85
Magnesium (meq/100g) 1.72 2.67 2.94 1.21 1.35 2.29 1.77 3.19
Sodium (meq/100g) 0.24 0.46 0.71 0.20 0.15 0.29 0.29 0.57
Potassium (meq/100g) 0.37 0.35 0.65 0.32 0.28 0.30 0.33 0.63
Aluminium (meq/100g) 0.13 0.49 0.12 0.64 0.21 0.49 0.13 0.28
CEC (meq/100g) 13.76 15.22 14.49 7.62 8.54 12.90 13.37 13.52