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Sow close to the row to boost crops after a dry year

On-row or edge row sowing means sowing a new crop immediately alongside or in the previous crop row. Grain crops are usually sown inter-row (between the old crop rows).

On-row sowing for phosphorus

On-row sowing can make use of last year’s phosphorus (P) fertiliser. Phosphorus is not a very mobile nutrient in the soil. If it is not removed in grain or hay, P tends to remain close to where it was placed in the soil.

The dry 2018 season seen by many growers means a significant amount of last year’s P fertiliser could still be in the soil. Sowing close to the stubble line of the previous crop maximises the potential for the seed to access residual P.

Still apply starter P as young crops aren’t good at getting residual P out of the soil. Do a soil test to check P stocks. P is more likely to be available in neutral soils than calcareous soils. P availability in acid soils will vary based on inherent soil properties. Grain yield is very sensitive to P rate when soil pH is below 5. Ideally, drill the fertiliser with or below the seed.

On-row sowing and nitrogen

There could be more potential for nitrogen (N) lock-up (immobilization) when sowing on‐row. N lock-up is associated with the breakdown of stubble. For each tonne of cereal stubble, about 10 kg/ha of extra N fertiliser is needed to compensate for N lock-up. Mid-row banding of N fertiliser may help crop establishment and uptake of N fertiliser.

On-row sowing in non-wetting soils

On-row or near-row sowing can improve crop establishment in non-wetting sands. The crop row is usually less water repellent than surrounding soil. The intact root system of the previous crop provides a pathway for water infiltration. Trials in WA found that plant emergence improved from 112 plants/m2 with inter-row sowing to 158 plants/m2 with on-row sowing.

Risks of on-row sowing

On-row sowing requires a high level of sowing precision. Risks include:

  • greater disease risk of stubble born diseases
  • hair-pinning, where stubble is pushed into the seeding slot reducing seed-soil contact and germination rates
  • poor seed placement reducing plant establishment, especially in small-seeded crops like canola.


Tips to tweak your crop nutrition program following drought

Sowing strategies to improve the productivity of crops in low rainfall soils

Maintaining profitability in retained stubble systems on Upper Eyre Peninsula

What happens to urea with high residue loads?

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