Farm Management

Seed and fertiliser coating technology shows potential

WA DPIRD development officer Dr Geoff Anderson inspects a glasshouse experiment to better understand how a surfactant seed coating can improve germination in water repellent soils at the department’s Northam site. Image courtesy of WA DPIRD

Ground breaking grains research on the use of new seed and fertiliser coating technology to overcome soil constraints has generated revealing results, which could help growers improve crop potential and profitability.

The WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development project has been investigating the use of a seed coating to overcome soil water repellence, as well as an elemental sulphur coating for phosphate fertilisers.

Development officer Geoff Anderson said the seed coating trials were tested to the full by a dry start to the season and produced some outstanding results.

A barley trial at Darkan and a wheat trial at Badgingarra tested seed coated with a surfactant, a substance that helps to provide a more favourable soil environment for germinating seed.

The trial compared plant responses to seed coated with the surfactant, with surfactant applied in-furrow with the seed, on top of the furrow and a control treatment with no surfactant.

Dr Anderson said trial results showed there was great potential for the application of seed coating technology to overcome soil water repellence and boost yields.

“Seed coating at a rate of 0.1 per cent equates to an application volume of about 65 millilitres per hectare, compared with the in-furrow treatment of up to 5000ml per hectare,” he said.

“Given the plant responses, the technology could provide an ‘insurance policy’ in dry years to assist growers to optimise yield potential and may provide an alternative, cost effective approach for growers to manage water repellent soils.”

The project also evaluated the potential for the use of phosphate fertilisers coated with elemental sulphur to aid sulphur deficient canola crops at a trial at Moora.

Mr Anderson said while the results were not as positive, they were still encouraging.

“The dry start to the 2017 season was not an ideal season to test elemental sulphur coating, as it requires moisture to oxidise into sulphate sulphur. If there had been a wetter start to 2017 with sulphur leaching, the fertiliser coating may have performed better,” he said.

“More research needs to be done to assess the plant responses in different seasonal conditions.”

An economic analysis of the results of the seed and fertiliser coating trials will be undertaken once yield results are collected after harvest.

The two-year trial is part of the department’s Boosting Grains Research and Development project, supported by Royalties for Regions, and is supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

Source: WA DPIRD

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