A study into gravel soils by researchers at The University of Western Australia may help farmers growing crops on soils with high gravel content optimise the amount of fertiliser they apply.
The glasshouse study found that the concentration of phosphorus in the matrix of gravel soils from residual and applied fertiliser had a greater effect on wheat growth, than the total amount of phosphorus in the pot.
Gravel soils make up approximately 3 million of the 18 million hectares of arable land in south west Western Australia. Gravel forms an important component of soil especially in the high rainfall cropping zone.
Mr Adamu Sanidanya, who conducted the research as part of his Master of Agriculture studies at UWA said understanding water relations in gravel soil and how it affects phosphorus uptake in wheat is critical for better crop management, particularly when making fertiliser recommendations and estimating yield potentials of crops.
Wheat was grown in pots with soil containing varying proportions of gravel and different concentrations of phosphorus in the soil matrix. Plant height, number of tillers, leaf score, dry shoot and root weight were measured after six weeks of planting.
Dr Ken Flower from UWA’s School of Plant Biology and Institute of Agriculture who co-supervised the research said the results showed that short term wheat plant growth was dependent on the concentration of phosphorus in the soil matrix, rather than the gravel content or total amount of phosphorus in the pot.
“The implication is that lower rates of fertiliser could be applied to soil with increasing gravel content to achieve the same concentration of phosphorus in the soil matrix,” Dr Flower said.
“Although, it should be remembered that these findings apply to wheat grown for only six weeks.”
Adamu was supervised by Dr Ken Flower, Dr Gavan McGrath from UWA’s School of Earth and Environment and Institute of Agriculture, and Dr Bill Bowden from the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia. His research was supported by the CSBP Fertilisers Agriculture Science Sponsorship.
CSBP Fertilisers is a major manufacturer and supplier of fertilisers and the scholarship serves to encourage research into fertiliser efficiency, and encourage talent to the agricultural industry. Applications for the CSBP Scholarship for UWA Honours and Master's students are open until 20 February 2016. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Ken Flower (+61 8) 6488 4576
Diana Boykett (Communications Officer, The UWA Institute of Agriculture) (+61 8) 6488 3756 / (+61 4) 04 152 262