Nitrogen drives yield in winter cropping systems. However, environmental conditions in the later stages of crop development make fertiliser applications difficult. While available soil-moisture at topdressing may be known, future rainfall events, frosts, heat shocks, and the length of the grain-fill period, are all unknown and can have an impact on both yield and protein.

Many parts of southern and central NSW have received above-average rainfall this year, resulting in high yield potential but significant waterlogging. The challenge for growers is to determine how much nitrogen will be required to optimise yield and protein, and when is the best time to apply it.

In most areas of the southern region, 2022 is shaping up to be another good winter crop season. Soil moisture profiles are full, (saturated in some areas!) and the rainfall outlook appears to be positive. However, after two big nutrient removal seasons soil-nitrogen levels are low. A tailored nitrogen strategy will be needed to optimise grain yield and returns.

Growers who were able to complete their winter crop planting program in 2021 are now enjoying regular rainfall events to solidify their crop yield prospects.

Fertilisers placed into the soil are protected from any losses from fire or from volatilisation. This is one way to avoid potential losses.

In 2019, if you grew vetch hay, cut crops for hay instead of grain, or harvested straw as well as grain, you changed the balance of nutrients exported from your paddocks.

When fertilisers are placed with the seed, the potential for seed damage and delayed or reduced emergence is always present. The safe rate of fertiliser depends on the interaction of fertiliser characteristics, crop type, soil moisture, soil type and application equipment. Take the time to calculate the Seed Bed Utilisation percentage (SBU%) and look up the safe rates tables before planting (links in the article).

Growing forage oats has generally been considered a low input system, relegated to the less productive parts of the farm, while better paddocks are sown to grain. However, this year, the need to rest pastures and provide fodder to hungry animals means the low input approach might not be appropriate.

We all know the importance of soil testing and the valuable data it can provide for fertiliser and soil amendment recommendations.

In reviewing the results from our nitrogen trial in a grain and graze system at Millvale in New South Wales, it is clear these crops need special treatment to perform to their best.