Managing Nitrogen in the Wet Tropics

In this video: Learn how to manage the use of nitrogen fertiliser on your farm

Nitrogen use in the Wet Tropics is critical for crop growth, but it also comes with some issues.

We live near stream and gullies that are right next to the reef, so losses from our farming systems is a concern to the community. All industries around the world are grappling with how to manage nitrogen better.

Where nitrogen comes from

The bacteria and life in soil grab nitrogen out of the air and put it in the soil so that your plants can get a hold of it.

There's a common perception that the easiest way to manage nitrogen is to get soluble nitrogen fertiliser and put that out on your soil, but actually the most important thing to remember is that most of it lives in organic matter. That's where it's held it's like a big storehouse for your nitrogen.

So when you get organic matter in the soil - all the bacteria, fungi and soil organisms, they eat it up or they eat each other and they just turn over the nutrients.

As they do that as they create waste - and that releases nutrients and nitrogen for your plant to take up. This process is called mineralization and it's probably the most important process of nitrogen going on in your paddock.

How to manage nitrogen well

  1. Set yourself a realistic yield or productivity target for your crop on your soil type.
  2. Monitor your nitrogen levels and use soil tests, tissue tests and visually assess your crops.
  3. Get the right form of fertilizer, time it right and put it in the right place. So that means putting out your fertiliser to match crop demand.
  4. Have legumes in your farming system as part of your crop rotation or in your row management.
  5. Keep living plants in your paddocks as much as possible through the year. Use diverse cover crops or living ground covers and grassed inter-rows.

If you want to learn more about how to improve your nitrogen management contact your local WTSIP extension officer. 

soil acidityWatch the next video in this series: Soil Acidity in the Wet Tropics