Glen Fasano

Enhanced Efficiency Fertiliser.

Who: Glen Fasano
Location: Near Mossman
Property size: 400 ha
Land use: Sugarcane production

Glen has over 25 years farming experience. Heavy rainfall in the wet tropics region means much of the applied nitrogen could be lost through pathways like denitrification and leeching. Given the importance of reducing nitrogen loss in the critical period after fertilisation, Glen became interested in enhanced efficiency fertiliser trials being conducted in other regions and saw value in trialling products for himself.

 

“There is a lot of interest in up and coming products and we need to see first hand evidence to be confident in applying them. The important thing about doing trials of this kind is that unless you collect and analyse all the data, and do the trial correctly, it doesn’t mean anything.”

The project

Enhanced efficiency fertiliser trials.

Project site trial details

Trial crop: sugarcane
Trial block size: 7.4 ha
Soil type: Mission
No. of replicates: 3

Potential water quality benefit

Increased nitrogen use efficiency reduces nitrogen run off. If trials support the hypothesis of less nitrogen loss and higher yields, then there would be increased uptake of these products and in turn the quality of water coming off the farm would be improved.

Trial status and results

The trials have been conducted in 2014-15 and 2015-16 on two different first ratoon blocks. The 2014-15 trial was established on a 5.6 hectare block in Mowbray, and compared three products, a standard fertiliser blend (CK140S), a controlled release (CR) product, and an ENTEC treated blend. All three products had the same NPKS ratios, and were applied at rates of 150 kilograms and 130 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare, making a total of six treatments. Each treatment was replicated three times.

The Mowbray trial was harvested in late July and early August 2015. While yield results were obtained for each replicate from bin weights, limited CCS data is available as the trial bins were combined when they were sent to the mill. As a result, the impact of the trial treatments on revenue and gross margin could not be calculated.

The trial was continued in 2015 on 6.6 hectare block in Newell Beach. The treatments were the same as the Mowbray trial, however a fourth product was added, the same fertiliser blend treated with eNtrench, a nitrification inhibitor similar to ENTEC. Fertiliser was applied in October 2015.

An economic analysis of the 2015 trial*, provided the following key findings

  • The enhanced efficiency fertilisers would need to generate a yield increase between one and five tonnes per hectare to break even with the standard fertiliser blend applied at the same rate.
  • Applying the standard fertiliser product at a reduced rate (20 kg of nitrogen per hectare lower) would provide a yield buffer of up to four tonnes per hectare compared to the standard fertiliser at the higher rate.
  • eNtrench at the lower rate could see a yield decrease of almost two tonnes per hectare before becoming less profitable than the standard fertiliser at the higher rate.

Both 2015 and 2016 results show little difference between the different treatments and rates.

Four similar trials were conducted on farms in Mossman, with similar outcomes as on Glen Fasano’s farm.

It is believed that very dry weather in the wet tropics in 2015 and 2016 was the reason there was no benefit seen in enhanced efficiency fertilisers. The dry weather may have meant nitrogen was not lost in heavy rain events.

Glen will continue to trial the product on small trial plots. 

*Holligan, E. (2016), Enhanced efficiency fertiliser trials. Glen Fasano: Economic analysis. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), Queensland.