NESP TWQ Round 2 - Project 2.1.8 - Improved water quality outcomes from on-farm nitrogen management

The sugar industry occupies 350,000ha in Reef catchments, applied 58,000t of nitrogen (N) fertilizer in 2014 and is a major contributor of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) to Great Barrier Reef receiving waters. There are many potential mechanisms for reducing on-farm N- usage. However, the comprehensive review of N use in sugarcane (SRA/DoE 2014) identified widespread over-use of N fertilizer and recommended adopting production unit yield potential (PUYP) combined with enhanced efficiency fertilizers (EEFs) to reduce ’surplus N’ (where applied N>crop requirements). This project will combine with existing farm trials at identified N loss ‘hot spots’ to test PUYP as the basis for determining fertilizer N rates and compare EEFs with standard N fertilizers for minimizing N losses, and to examine the water quality benefits that derive from such practice changes. Productivity, economic and environmental indicators will validate these strategies for reducing surplus N and produce recommendations for enhanced BMP’s.

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