Collaborative approach to fertiliser trials

Media release
Four years of trials have found that national phosphorus recommendations are relevant for soils in South West Western Australia.
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This means that South West WA farmers can have confidence in applying the recommendations of their soil test results to apply only the fertiliser needed for plant growth.

While this often means that less fertiliser can be applied than in the past, it also means that the recommendations resulting from the soil testing are reliable in our local context.

The results of the trials were shared at the uPtake Technical Reference Group meeting with 28 representatives from the fertiliser industry, farmers, government, natural resource management and academia on hand to hear the results.

The uPtake project was developed to improve confidence among farmers and the fertiliser industry in the data behind phosphorus fertiliser application recommendations based on national data.

“Some of our sandy West Australian soils are quite different to soils in the eastern states, particularly those with low phosphorus binding ability, which is why we get a lot of phosphorus leaching in our coastal catchments,” said uPtake Project Coordinator Rob McFerran from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.

“The uPtake project showed that despite these differences the national data behind phosphorus recommendations is valid for Western Australian soils and pasture species,” Mr McFerran said.

Fifty-two phosphorus trials were established and monitored on farms across south-west WA from the Peel-Harvey catchment in the north to Oyster Harbour catchment in the south over a four-year period.

The Technical Reference Group was established in 2019 to guide the trial design, select trial sites and provide technical input into the project.

“We wanted to get buy-in from the fertiliser industry and farmers so getting them around the table early to help develop the trials and look at the data as we went along has been critical to the success of the project,” Mr McFerran said.

“It was great to share the results of the trials with the same group of people who were involved from the beginning”.

The collaborative approach of the uPtake project was recognised in 2021 with the project winning the Research and Development award for the Western Australian Water Awards and in 2022 winning the Platypus Environmental award at the Fertilizer Industry Awards in Darwin.

“The model of bringing industry, farmers, catchment groups, government and academics together to oversee and share results of the uPtake trials has been hugely successful.

“Not only did we achieve a great scientific outcome we built relationships and understanding between the different players who were around the table.
“It has been a very rewarding project to be involved with.”

uPtake is jointly funded through the State Government's Healthy Estuaries WA and the Australian Governments' National Landcare Program.

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