Fertiliser N and P applications on two vertosols in North Eastern Australia. I Comparative grain responses for two cultivation ages
Lester, DW and Birch, CJ and Dowling, CW, Fertiliser N and P applications on two vertosols in North Eastern Australia. I Comparative grain responses for two cultivation ages, Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 59, (3) pp. 247-259. ISSN 0004-9409 (2008) [Refereed Article]
Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are the 2 most limiting nutrients for grain production within the northern grains region of Australia. The response to fertiliser N and P inputs is influenced partly by the age of cultivation for cropping, following a land use change from native pasture. There are few studies that have assessed the effects of both N and P fertiliser inputs on grain yield and soil fertility in the long term on soils with contrasting ages of cultivation with fertility levels that are running down v. those already at the new equilibrium. Two long-term N × P experiments were established in the northern grains region: one in 1985 on an old (>40 years) cultivation soil on the Darling Downs, Qld; the second in 1996 on relatively new (10 years) cultivation on the north-west plains of NSW. Both experiments consisted of fertiliser N rates from nil to 120 kg N/ha.crop in factorial combination with fertiliser P from nil to 20 kg P/ha.crop. Opportunity cropping is practiced at both sites, with winter and summer cereals and legumes sown. On the old cultivation soil, fertiliser N responses were large and consistent for short-fallow crops, while long fallowing reduced the size and frequency of N response. Short-fallow sorghum in particular has responded up to the highest rate of fertiliser N (120 kg N/ha.crop). Average yield increase with fertiliser N compared with nil for 5 short-fallow sorghum crops was 1440, 2650, and 3010 kg/ha for the 40, 80, and 120 kg N/ha, respectively. Average agronomic efficiency of N for these crops was 36, 33, and 25 kg grain/kg fertiliser N applied. This contrasts with relatively new cultivation soil, where fertiliser N response was generally limited to the first 30 kg N/ha applied during periods of high cropping intensity. Response to P input was consistent for crop species, VAM sensitivity, and starting soil test P level. At both the old and new cultivation sites, generally all winter cereals responded to a 10 kg P/ha application, and more than half of long-fallow sorghum crops from both sites had increased grain yield with P application. At the old cultivation site, average yield gain for 10 kg P/ha.crop treatment was 480 kg/ha for all winter cereal sowings, and 180 kg/ha for long-fallow sorghum. Short-fallow sorghum did not show yield response to P treatment.