Use paddock test strips to get the most out of your fertiliser budget

Paddock nutrient test strips showed two nutrient deficiencies in Justin Wundke’s barley crop. Justin and family run a cropping and prime sheep enterprise in South Australia.

Before sowing last year’s crop Justin knew his paddock could have an issue with sulfur deficiency. Justin set up some test strips in his paddock after seeing nutrient test strips demonstrated at the Hart research site. He hand spread additional nutrients onto the crop at the end of tillering (Zadock’s crop stage 31).

The test strips included:

  • A urea-rich strip to test response to more nitrogen (N)
  • A gypsum-rich strip to monitor response to more sulfur (S)
  • A sulphate of ammonia-rich strip to monitor nitrogen and sulfur in combination.

Compared to the rest of the paddock, the crop was ‘greening’ in all strips in a few weeks.

This indicated a deficiency in both N and S.

Last year’s trial has triggered changes in Justin’s crop nutrition decision process. “We are planning on conducting deep soil testing (0-60 cm) in autumn, followed by more test strips,” he said.

Justin plans on establishing Phosphorus (P) test strips at sowing next year. His soils have the potential to lock up P, so he is keen to determine the optimal P application. “Condowie soils may have economic returns up to 30 kg P/ha,” he said.

Soil testing before planting refines the predicted fertiliser requirement for the next crop. Nutrient test strips in the paddock give you a real time indication of the crop’s nutrient status as it grows. When test strips are growing better than the main crop top up applications of those nutrients may boost the crop’s performance. With a bit of planning it’s not too difficult to put in test strips at sowing.


More Information

N-rich strips show if your crop needs a boost this season

Soil test deeper to predict response to Potassium fertiliser

Using deep soil cores for nitrogen, potassium and sulfur

Data gold from your test strip at harvest


MPCN case study online

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