Partnership delivers better pastures
A partnership between Elders and Incitec Pivot Fertilisers has led to better pastures, enhanced fertiliser sales and stronger relationships between the two companies and their pasture clients.
Along the way, more than 35 graziers from Mudgee to Millicent have experienced the benefits of soil testing their pasture paddocks and trialling a wide range of pasture fertiliser blends, all with the aid of their local Elders agronomists.
Even better, two graziers have each won $5,000 worth of Incitec Pivot fertilisers for successfully demonstrating the value of soil testing and using more suitable products to boost their pasture productivity.
Run during 2016, the pasture trials initiative was the brainchild of Adam Stone, Elders National Fertiliser Manager, and Peter Miell, Elders Account Manager with Incitec Pivot Fertilisers (IPF).
“In exploring ways to expand the pasture market, Peter and I wanted to give our grazier clients the opportunity to try out a whole range of newer fertilisers that they may not ordinarily use on their pastures and let them to see the responses in fully replicated trials on their own properties,” Mr Stone said.
“As an extra incentive, we decided to turn the trial program into a competition for our clients with the support of our agronomists and IPF who supplied $10,000 worth of fertilisers, a host of free soil tests and added technical advice.”
One of the two winners was Daniel Walsh, who runs a sheep and cattle operation at Taralga, near Goulburn in New South Wales.
When his local Elders agronomist, Daniel Lewis, approached him to take part in the trial, Mr Walsh jumped at the chance to have a free soil test done in a paddock he generally uses for hay.
He was also keen to monitor the progress of the trial after Mr Lewis applied 10 different pasture fertilisers and blends in trial strips in the paddock on the main road between Taralga and Oberon.
“Daniel runs a family enterprise producing second cross lambs and Black Angus cattle so producing hay for feed is a key aspect of the operation,” Mr Lewis said.
“This red basalt block had a long history of growing potatoes, but Daniel switched it over to perennial ryegrass and clover pasture, applying standard products like single super or super molybdenum blends at high rates, and more recently, IPF’s Pasture Boosta and Hay Boosta products.
“Despite the generous fertiliser program, the paddock had no history of soil testing, so Daniel and I were both interested to find out where his soils were at through the free soil test offered as part of the trial,” Mr Lewis said.
After taking the test in cold, wet conditions in mid-June, the results revealed a pH of 5.1 (CaCl2), Colwell P of 50 mg/kg, PBI of 400, high rates of sulphur at 25 mg/kg, available potassium at 120 mg/kg and nitrate nitrogen of 8 mg/kg.
Following the strict protocols for the trials required by Elders and IPF, Mr Lewis set up the 2 m x 5 m trial plots in the paddock and marked each of the 10 plots with pegs before fencing off the trial area.
In mid-July, the 10 plots were each treated with different fertilisers including SuPerfect, triple super, muriate of potash, a SuPerfect moly blend and Green Urea NV.
Green Urea NV is an enhanced efficiency fertiliser which reduces losses caused by volatilisation.
“While the growth was slow to start with, the differences between the treatments were easy to pick as the season progressed,” Mr Lewis said.
“I was particularly interested to try Green Urea NV because we hadn’t used it before and to compare it with conventional urea.
“To put it to the test, I applied the Green Urea NV and urea when there was no rain on the horizon to test the effects of the urease inhibitor.
“The plots received rain five days later and by the time we finished the dry matter cuts in late spring, the Green Urea NV plot grew approximately 4,500 kg/ha more grass than the plot treated with urea.”
Mr Lewis said these results alone show just how much more grass graziers can grow with their fertiliser dollars, when they follow soil test results to guide their fertiliser choices.
“Based off the soil test results, we expected that phosphorous wouldn’t be the key driver of pasture growth in this paddock. Interestingly, the single super and super moly treatments were the least economical, despite the age-old practice around here of putting single super out every year,” he said.
“On my calculations, the super moly treatment worked out at $1.84/kg of extra DM to the control, compared with 1c/kg for Green Urea NV.”
Mr Lewis was quick to acknowledge that these were one season’s results and the wet winter and spring created ideal conditions for pasture growth.
“When I rang Daniel to tell him the good news about winning the competition, he wanted to know when I was returning to do more trials,” he said.
“The trials created a lot of interest for Daniel and his neighbours around Taralga, and we started soil testing at his place in November.”
Good timing for Gippsland winners
The opportunity to take part in the trials and then being named one of the two winners couldn’t have come at a better time for Gippsland farming family, Ken and Judy Alexander and their son, John.
The Alexanders, who have been Elders clients for many years, had just acquired another property when Noel Jansz, Elders agronomist at Bairnsdale, asked them to take part last year.
Their mixed farming operations are based at Lindenow, west of Bairnsdale, where they run 300 Angus breeders and 2000 first cross ewes for prime lambs on 800 hectares of well managed pastures.
While pasture renovation, resowing and fertiliser application are all standard practice on their home paddocks, the Alexanders knew little about the history or nutrient status of the new property.
“John and his young family recently returned to his parents’ farm to help manage it, so he was keen to learn more about fertilisers and pastures through the trial,” Mr Jansz said.
“John selected a native grass paddock that had been oversown with Victorian ryegrass years before as the trial site and set up some electric fencing to secure it.”
As Mr Jansz suspected, the soil test results from IPF’s Nutrient Advantage laboratory confirmed that the soil pH was low and all the major nutrients were limited.
“This meant we were confident about obtaining responses from most of the fertilisers applied on 20 July,” Mr Jansz said.
“Every 21 days, John and I met at the trial site to assess the progress, and in between times, we both kept a keen eye on what was happening.
“In evaluating the results, there was a faster growth response from the plots treated with nitrogen and potassium, but over time, we’d expect to see responses from the lime and SuPerfect treatments.”
The highest dry matter cuts were achieved in plots treated with blends such as Hay Boosta and Grass Boosta which supply nitrogen and potassium, compared with plots receiving single nutrients such as urea, SuPerfect or muriate of potash.
Mr Jansz said the success of the trial was reflected in Mr Alexander’s enthusiasm to have more soil tests done and continue building the fertility of the new property.
He emphasised that investing in soil testing was one of the best ways for graziers to save money when it comes to fertilisers.
“Trials like these encourage our clients to change from what they’ve always done out of habit to more effective practices and products,” Mr Jansz said.
“With soil testing and fertilising with the right products at the right time, our clients can produce more dry matter for grazing, hay and silage production.”
Mr Stone congratulated the winning graziers, along with Daniel Lewis, Noel Jansz and the 30 Elders agronomists who took part in the trials.
“Essentially, we wanted to encourage our staff to work more closely with key clients and engage them in using new and innovative products in their individual farm businesses,” he said.
The winners were selected on how well the trials were conducted as well as the measurable results that were achieved.
“The protocols developed by our Technical Services team with Incitec Pivot Fertilisers required our agronomists and clients to pay attention to detail in planning the trials, applying the fertilisers and regularly managing the sites for the duration of the season,” Mr Stone said.
“In particular, we were impressed with the effort that Daniel and Noel put into submitting regular growth measurements and documenting the yield data, dry matter cuts and other results, as well as the ultimate benefits for their clients from using differentiated products.”