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RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Fertiliser recommendations and soil tests

Surveys have indicated soil testing is underutilised in Australia for developing paddock or site specific fertiliser applications. Soil testing provides a seasonal index of the nutrients present in soil and helps inform decisions on the right types, methods and rates of fertiliser to meet crop requirements. The process for developing fertiliser tactics includes:

  • Grain producers or advisors taking soil samples, following industry standard guidelines on the number of cores, sampling pattern, depth, storage and transport for soil sampling.
  • Laboratory analysis of the sample. The Australasian Soil and Plant Analysis Council (ASPAC), in place since 1990, certifies laboratories for individual analytical methods, thus assuring reliable results.
  • Interpretation by an advisor considers multiple factors including site information and history, soil test results, and calibration data from the soil test-crop dataset.

The Making Better Fertiliser Decisions for Cropping Systems in Australia project (BFDC) has collated all the suitable and available data from Australian fertiliser response trials into a database – the BFDC Interrogator. Stringent guidelines control the inclusion of data and the relationship between yield and nutrient soil-test values. Using the BFDC Interrogator supports advisors in interpreting soil test results and making fertiliser recommendations. Users must successfully complete a training process to access the Interrogator.

Fertcare recognises the BFDC database as the national baseline standard to underpin soil test interpretations that are part of fertiliser recommendations made by advisors to Australian grain farmers. The Fertcare Accredited Advisor program uses independent auditors to monitor the performance of advisors making nutrient recommendations.

The Fertcare Accredited Advisor program provides farmers with confidence that they are receiving fertiliser advice based on soil and / or plant testing and interpretation of a high standard. All advisors can apply to become Fertcare Accredited Advisors.


Chris Dowling, Back Paddock Company, Jeff Kraak, Fertilizer Australia, Ken Peverill.

This article is a summary of the paper:
Title: Making Better Fertiliser Decisions for Cropping Systems in Australia: an overview
Authors: Simon D. Spiers, Doug J. Reuter, Ken I. Peverill, Ross F. Brennan
Journal: Crop & Pasture Science
Year: 2013

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