Fluid fertilizer for better vigour in winter crops

Nathan Lawless, of Burramine, VIC used SLTEC® fluid fertilizer at planting for improved vigour and plant health.

The use of fluid fertilizer at planting and in the early growth stages has helped produce more vigorous and healthier plants on the Lawless property at Burramine, west of Yarrawonga, in the north-east of Victoria.

Nathan Lawless said they predominantly grew wheat, barley and canola and had been using fluid fertilizer through the planter for at least five years.

He said the key advantage to fluid fertilizer was the early crop vigour and the improved crop health in the canola and the cereals.

“We started off with throwing a bit of UAN (Urea Ammonium Nitrate) in just with a bit of nitrogen and streaming it with this bar we built a few years ago,” he said.  “We wanted to get something that was right in the furrow and readily available.”

The fluid options have been developed by SLTEC® and in recent years include elements such as phosphorous and different types of zinc.

Mr Lawless said the fluid fertilizer provided a real advantage with much of the crops sown into the stubble from the previous season.

“If we don’t get something in there early the crop gets too much disease and gets too slow.  A lot of time you might only get one rain before you sow it and you’ll be sowing it the next day.  There’s not much chance of mineralisation.  With the nutrients being tied up a bit we don’t want to give them a set-back.”

A typical application on the winter crops would be 30 litres, per hectare, of liquid which includes 20 litres of UAN, additional trace elements and water to top up the tank.

The fertilizer is placed within 10mm of the seed and is accessed quickly by the emerging plants.

“With precision seeding, if you can get it in the ground and enough nutrients right in that zone you definitely get a better response,” Mr Lawless said.  “You compare it to what hadn’t got it when you have a stuff-up and you are glad you haven’t got a whole paddock.”

He said on one occasion a bank of six rows blocked up during application and the difference in the vigour and health of the plants could be seen from the road.

“It’s chalk and cheese, the difference.  It gives you confidence that what you are doing is working.  We definitely know it works.”

The addition of the fluid fertilizer to the crop, at sowing, helps the emerging plants with whatever seasonal conditions occur in the early stages.

“It means we can get the crop in, get all our early spraying done and we are not panicking that the crops are going to be wanting a bit of nitrogen,” Mr Lawless said.

In both dry and wet conditions there is also an option to run some fluid fertilizer out onto the plant early in the season to assist their development.

“If things get a bit wet and you just want a bit of leaf uptake, especially on canola when they look like they want something, it’s been a good option just to run a bit of that stuff out,” Mr Lawless said.  “At times we’ve gone in early with the sprayer and put 20 litres of UAN on and then followed it up with 100 kilograms of urea – just because we want it then and there.”

He said a big part of the program was the use of gypsum and lime to assist with nutrient availability and lift the pH up above 4.5.

“We are finding that the fluids are a bit more available in that more acidic stuff.  That’s probably one thing that’s working in their favour in our situation.”

The fluid fertilizer has also been blended with Impact fungicide, with both options working well together in the one application.

Generally crops on the property are sown from April 10 onwards and are put in dry if rainfall hasn’t been received.

Canola and barley are planted first, with the early wheat sown by the middle of the month.