Farmers to benefit from $2.6m Action on the Ground funding
Reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and building soil carbon will be the subject of four collaborative projects between Southern Cross University, the NSW Department of Primary Industries and primary industry groups.
The projects are funded through the Australian Government’s Action on the Ground program and will trial on-farm abatement technologies, practices and management strategies to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon in soils while maintaining or enhancing productivity. The four projects will receive more than $2.6 million of Australian Government funding and will run until 30 May 2017.
“Little is known about agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in our subtropical agricultural and horticultural systems, but there is strong interest from the local industry groups to understand the drivers of these emissions and explore options to reduce them,” said project leader Dr Terry Rose from Southern Cross University Special Research Centre Southern Cross Plant Science, based at Lismore.
“The projects will trial a range of soil amendment options, such as biochar or compost addition, to enhance soil carbon levels, and will trial the use of inter-row legume crops to reduce the need for nitrogen fertiliser inputs and therefore reduce nitrous oxide emissions.”
Scientists from Southern Cross Plant Science will be working with scientists from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and rural industry groups Australian Subtropical Coffee Association, NSW Farming Systems Group Inc for Sugarcane, the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association, Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia and other horticultural industries in the delivery of these four on-farm trials.
Professor Graham King, director of Southern Cross Plant Science, said the partnership with scientists at the nearby Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute would deliver strong benefits to local rural industries.
“These projects are an excellent example of the added value to be gained from combining the complementary research excellence available at the two research institutions with industry specific expertise.”
The four projects are:
Reducing nitrous oxide emissions in sub-tropical plantation crops using inter-row legumes — Lead investigator: Southern Cross University
Total project value: $476,204.
This project will trial and demonstrate the use of inter-row legume crops as a nitrogen fertiliser alternative in three subtropical production systems - avocado, tea tree and coffee - to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from soils.
Avocado farmers Tony and Bonnie Walker, from Tuckombil near Alstonville on the NSW Far North Coast, have successfully managed legume cover crops within the avocado plantation to fix nitrogen and reduce the need for external nitrogen fertiliser inputs (see photo).
Rice stubble, fertiliser and water management options to reduce nitrous oxide emissions and build soil carbon — Lead investigator: Ricegrowers Association of Australia
Total project value: $697,514.
This project will trial and demonstrate management practices, including alternative irrigation and stubble management strategies, to reduce nitrous oxide and methane emissions in temperate rice production systems. Nitrification inhibitors will also be trialled in subtropical rice systems to assess their potential to reduce nitrous oxide emissions
Nitrogen management to mitigate nitrous oxide emissions in sugarcane - a high input industry — Lead investigator: New South Wales Farming Systems Group Inc
Total project value: $737,904.
This project will trial new nitrogen fertiliser application technologies, including high pressure nitrogen injection and slow-release nitrogen, to measure and demonstrate their potential for reducing nitrous oxide emissions in the NSW sugarcane industry.
The fruit salad project: soil amendments in fertigated melons, blueberries and banana production — Lead investigator: Australian Melon Association Inc
Total project value: $703,459.
This project will trial and demonstrate the use of soil amendments, including biochar and compost, to reduce nitrous oxide emissions and sequester carbon in soil on commercial melon, banana and blueberry farms in northern NSW and southern Queensland.
Southern Cross Plant Science
The work of Southern Cross Plant Science, based at the Lismore campus, contributed to Southern Cross University achieving the highest possible classification of ‘well above world standard’ in six key areas in the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2012 national report.
Photo: (l to r) NSW DPI soil scientist Justine Cox (blue shirt), avocado farmers Tony and Bonnie Walker, NSW DPI research officer Stephen Walker (back row blue shirt), Dr Terry Rose (kneeling) from Southern Cross Plant Science and NSW DPI principal research scientist Dr Lukas van Zwieten (red shirt).