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Sustained crop returns for wheat and maize

18 November 2013

Sustained crop returns for wheat and maize

Digging a little deeper into the budget for grain fertiliser has valuable paybacks in terms of crop yields for maize and wheat, according to recent studies funded by Ballance Agri-Nutrients.

Trials were undertaken in Canterbury, Southland and Waikato in spring 2012 to evaluate the performance of standard urea against Ballance Agri-Nutrient’s SustaiN, which is urea coated with the urease inhibitor AGROTAIN®. Agrotain is a nitrogen stabiliser that has been proven to suppress ammonia volatilisation, delivering more nitrogen directly to the soil where it can contribute to plant growth.

The trials showed that the additional cost of $11/ha for SustaiN (applied at 100 kg N/ha) was readily recouped.

While in one wheat trial SustaiN only produced slightly more grain yield than urea, at the second site, SustaiN at around 100 kg N/ha out-yielded urea at the same rate by more than half a tonne of grain per hectare. This highlights the risk of reduced nitrogen efficiency through ammonia volatilisation with urea. At a grain price of $400/t, the extra 0.5 t grain/ha would be worth an extra $200/ha, making the additional $11/ha for SustaiN a sound risk investment.

In the maize trial, at 100 kg N/ha the $11/ha additional cost delivered an even higher increase in grain yield of 2.6 t/ha. At a maize grain price of $500/t, this would return $1300/ha more, easily recouping the added fertiliser cost.

Ballance Science Manager, Aaron Stafford, said the maize yields could have potentially been better given the trials took place during the drought, so lower than average grain yields were achieved.

“This trial work carried out by independent researchers supports our position that investing a little more is certainly worth the money, given the results of the trials.”

Both the maize and wheat trials were set up with large plot sizes (10 m x 3 m) and high replication (10 replicate plots for each treatment). This was done to ensure large areas were harvested with high replication, so as to minimise background crop yield variability, which can easily mask product performance benefits.

In one Waikato maize trial, SustaiN applied at 100 kg N/ha achieved similar yields to both standard urea and SustaiN applied at 200 kg N/ha. This highlights the need to apply only the amount of nitrogen that is required to grow the crop, but at the same time ensuring that the nitrogen being applied is effective. The Agrotain in SustaiN helps provide this assurance.

“These results clearly support previous work that SustaiN can outperform urea, as a result of reduced ammonia volatilisation losses,” said Mr Stafford.


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