Why should you keep good farm records?

Detailed records on crop nutrition help growers and advisors:

Plan fertiliser applications

Farm records feed into nutrient budgets and future fertiliser decisions. Nitrogen budgets rely on soil test data, yield, and grain protein estimates. Yield and protein expectations are often informed by records from previous, similar seasons.

Review performance

How much was spent on crop nutrition and was it well spent? Nutrient performance indicators assess how effective and efficient fertiliser applications have been. These calculations need information on yield and fertiliser history.

Solve problems

Crop health or yields might not go as expected. Good records can help pinpoint if the problem was nutrition based. Similar crop nutrition issues may arise in the same place over the years. Use records to look back at how you tackled these issues last time. Could you manage them better now? If there was significant yield variation, what caused it and what can be done to improve next season?

Monitor fertility

Use records to keep an eye on long-term soil fertility trends. Historical soil data will show if fertility is building, stable, or running down. Use data to check soil fertility is trending as planned.

Who should keep records?

Advisors

All advisors should keep records. Good records are essential for:

  • professional indemnity insurance
  • Fertcare®  and other accreditation
  • ongoing crop nutrition improvement.

Growers

On top of good farm management, records can help farmers sell to buyers. Farm records are quality assurance for food safety and off-site impacts. Australian canola growers exporting to Europe must now demonstrate that they grow low-emission canola.

The QLD government plans to strengthen regulations for using fertilisers in Great Barrier Reef (GBR) catchments. Good farm records are required in regulated sugarcane areas. This may extend to grain growing activities in the GBR catchments. In the future, other sensitive catchments may adopt similar requirements.

When to take records

Update records three times each season:

At the start of the season:

  • soil test results
  • crop type and variety
  • date(s) of sowing
  • fertiliser type, rates, method and time of application.

Mid-season:

  • plant tissue test results
  • in-season soil test results
  • in-season fertiliser type, rates, method and time of application.

At this point, advisors should review advice made at the start of the season. Advice might need updating based on seasonal conditions and crop response.

Harvest:

Review how crops responded to fertiliser. Did the crop meet yield and quality expectations? If yields were higher than expected, what made this happen? Which parts of the field yielded above and below average? Why was this so? Have above and below average areas changed compared to previous seasons? Higher than expected yields may have implications for next season’s crop, and longer-term soil fertility.

Advisors should compare harvest outcomes with the advice they provided at the start and during the season.

More

Test what when to help crop nutrient decisions

How good was your crop nutrition last season? Tools for review.

Nutrient performance indicators for your paddock

Good records = good decisions

Photo: GRDC

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