Guideline Index

Chapter 15: Nutrient Planning

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Responsible nutrient planning involves soil testing and nutrient budgeting to match the nutrients being applied with the actual farm nutrient requirements. The benefits of this approach include potential $ savings, increased productivity and a reduction in nutrients lost to the environment.

15.1. Introduction

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15.2. Factors affecting nutrient requirements

To accurately plan for nutrient applications on a dairy farm you need to consider; soil type, current soil nutrient status, target soil nutrient levels, nutrients brought onto the farm, and nutrients removed in milk and other products. As these factors are variable, nutrient requirements will vary from farm to farm, paddock to paddock and year to year.

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15.3. Phases of farm development

Nutrients required depend on the stage of development of the farm. In their natural state, most Australian soils are low in phosphorus, sulphur, and to some extent potassium. When converting land to a dairy farm, large inputs of nutrients may be required (development phase). When farm soils reach the optimum nutrient status maintenance fertilisers only are required (maintenance phase).

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15.4. Key tools for nutrient planning

There are a number of key tools essential to nutrient planning including soil testing, nutrient mapping, and farm management zones. These tools combined help to improve productivity and save money on fertiliser.

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15.5. Setting target levels

Setting soil fertility targets will assist in determining whether the farm needs maintenance or capital fertiliser applications. Soil fertility targets are dependent on pasture species, soil type and production goals.

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15.6. Nutrient budgeting to help determine nutrient application rates

Nutrient budgeting is a technique used to quantify nutrient deficits or surpluses, either at a whole-farm or field scale, in an attempt to determine fertiliser requirements. It can improve nutrient use efficiency and reduce nutrient losses from agriculture. Nutrient budgeting is more accurate than the rules of thumb used in the past.

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15.7. Calculating the [no explanation]maintenance requirement[/no explanation]

This section uses examples to calculate the nutrient maintenance requirements for certain areas of the farm. The major exports and imports on a dairy farm are discussed, and worksheets are provided to help with the calculations.

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15.8. Capital nutrient applications

When nutrients are applied at a greater rate than that needed to maintain soil fertility this is referred to as a capital application. The amount of capital nutrient required to raise soil fertility is related to soil type and the targeted increase. Find out how to calculate how much phosphorus, potassium and sulphur is required to lift soil fertility to targeted levels.

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15.9. Prioritising nutrient applications on farm

Whether the nutrient requirements of the farm will be fulfilled depends largely on the availability of money and the cost of nutrients. Sometimes these constraints mean that only part of the ideal nutrient plan can be implemented. Find out how to prioritise fertiliser applications to get the best financial returns.

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15.10. Monitoring of soil nutrient status

Regular soil testing using correct sampling procedures is vital to monitoring the effect of the fertiliser program on soil fertility. Find out how to use fertiliser monitor charts to record soil test results and to monitor soil fertility trends in each farm management zone.

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15.11. Developing a [no explanation]nutrient budget[/no explanation] for a dairy farm

Whole farm nutrient budget worksheets are provided to work out the maintenance and capital nutrient requirements for the farm. These worksheets are available for download and printing.

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15.12. References

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