Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search

 


Reduce winter nitrogen loss

Reduce winter nitrogen loss

By Bala Tikkisetty

Winter is a time when farmers should take special care to protect both profits and the environment from the effects of increased nitrogen leaching at this time of year.

Applications of nitrogen fertilisers in winter are generally least effective for promoting grass growth.

That’s because slow growth of pasture and drainage from increased seasonal rainfall can result in nitrate leaching directly from fertiliser before plants can take it up. The nitrogen can then make its way to waterways where it can stimulate nuisance algal growth.

At the same time, the risk of nitrogen leaching from animal urine patches is much higher in winter.

So what can farmers do to help counter these impacts?

Some of the research on mitigating nitrogen losses has focussed on growing pasture with more rooting depth for better take up of nitrates. Other ideas include reducing the amount of time animals spend on pasture and feeding high sugar grasses for reducing the amount of nitrogen excreted by grazing animals.

It is also a good idea for farmers to get clear advice about the risks involved with winter nitrogen applications.

Nutrient budgeting using computer models such as Overseer, combined with feed budgeting, enables farmers to understand whether they are using too much or too little fertiliser. From there, they can reduce their impact on the environment by working out a pragmatic nutrient management plan.

To help make judgments on what’s the right amount of fertiliser to use, it’s important to understand the term “response rate”.

This refers to the amount of pasture grown in terms of kilograms of dry matter per hectare per kilogram of nitrogen (N) applied.

For example, when 20kg N/ha is applied and an additional 200kg DM/ha of pasture is grown the response rate is 10kg DM/kg N applied. The response is dependent on several factors such as soil temperature, plant growth, soil moisture, the deficiency of available nitrogen in the soil and the rate of nitrogen applied per application.

Timing of nitrogen fertiliser application is paramount. It is good to apply nitrogenous fertiliser when the pasture cover is between 1,500 to 1,800 kg DM/ha. This ensures that there is sufficient leaf area for photosynthesis leading to good pasture growth.

The profitability of applying nitrogen is dependent on the utilisation of the extra feed. Therefore, nitrogen needs to be strategically applied to fill genuine feed deficits.

The best response to N fertiliser occurs on fast growing pasture, when other factors such as moisture and soil temperature are not limiting growth. Response rate variation also depends on the season and on nitrogen application rate.

In winter, at the same application rate, responses are lower and slower than other times of the year. The response rate also declines when the application rate (single dose) is higher than 40 kg N/ha.

Also, nitrogen fertiliser reduces nitrogen fixation by clover by about one kg N/ha/year for every three kg nitrogen fertiliser applied. In addition, clover content will be further reduced if nitrogen boosted pastures shade the clover. This effect is seen during spring.

“Nitrogen conversion efficiency” for any farm is another factor to bear in mind. It is calculated from the total nitrogen in product leaving the farm (such as milk or meat) divided by the total nitrogen inputs into a farm and is expressed in percentage. A dairy farm with a figure of around 40 per cent is probably doing fine in terms of nitrogen conversion efficiency.

Bala Tikkisetty is a sustainable agriculture coordinator at Waikato Regional Council. Contact him at bala.tikkisetty@waikatoregion.govt.nz or 0800 800 401.
ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Scoop Business: RBNZ Keeps OCR At 3.5%, Signals Slower Pace Of Future Hikes

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler kept the official cash rate at 3.5 percent and signalled he won’t be as aggressive with future rate hikes as previously thought as inflation remains tamer than expected. The kiwi dollar fell to a seven-month low. More>>

ALSO:

Weather: Dry Spells Take Hold In South Island

Many areas in the South Island are tracking towards record dry spells as relatively warm, dry weather that began in mid-August continues... for some South Island places, the current period of fine weather is quite rare. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Productivity Commission To Look At Housing Land Supply

The Productivity Commission is to expand on its housing affordability report with an investigation into improving land supply and development capacity, particularly in areas with strong population growth. More>>

ALSO:

Forestry: Man Charged After 2013 Death

Levin Police have arrested and charged a man with manslaughter in relation to the death of Lincoln Kidd who was killed during a tree felling operation on 19 December 2013. More>>

ALSO:

Smells Like Justice: Dairy Company Fined Over Odour

Dairy company fined over odour Dairy supply company Open Country Dairy Limited has been convicted and fined more than $35,000 for discharging objectionable odour from its Waharoa factory at the time of last year’s ”spring flush” when milk supply was high. More>>

Scoop Business: Dairy Product Prices Decline To Lowest Since July 2012

Dairy product prices dropped to the lowest level since July 2012 in the latest GlobalDairyTrade auction, led by a slump in rennet casein and butter milk powder. More>>

ALSO:

SOE Results: TVNZ Lifts Annual Profit 25% On Flat Ad Revenue, Quits Igloo

Television New Zealand, the state-owned broadcaster, lifted annual profit 25 percent, ahead of forecast and despite a dip in advertising revenue, while quitting its stake in the pay-TV Igloo joint venture with Sky Network Television. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Computer Power Plus

Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Business
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news