1 t/ha biochar applied on the surface to be harrowed in.

1 t/ha biochar injected using Phillips Subsoil Extruder.

Research and Trials

Crop Sequencing

Determine the value of break crops in the rotation, DAFWA and GRDC (7 focus farms located at Gnowangerup and Borden).

Yield Prophet®

Evaluate Yield Prophet® crop forecasting tool in NSP, DAFWA, CSBP, GRDC and local agronomists (Location: Borden). Click on this link for further information.

Malting Barley Trial

Malting Barley variety by seed rate demonstration trial in NSP region, GRDC 2012 Agribusiness Extension Trial Network with Brent Pritchard, Farmanco (Borden).

Green Manuring

Demonstrate technique of green manuring to renovate poor performing paddocks, SCNRM CFOC project 10SC-C76 (Location: Borden).


Different biochar application methods by rate, with Energy Farmers Australia and Wayne Phillips (Location Gnowangerup).

Fertilising Perennials

Different Nitrogen rates on Tall Wheat grass, Gillamii Farmready Project (Location: Ongerup).

Soil Acidity

Demonstrate best practice for managing subsoil acidity, SCNRM CFOC Project 11SC-C105 (Location: Gnowangerup).

The Agronomy Jigsaw - Download


Farm Scale PA Trials - Some pointers from the Agronomy Jigsaw project

The Agronomy Jigsaw project has been delving deeper into strip trial analysis through farmer examples provided cour tesy of Preci s ion Agronomics Australia (PAA). As you’re getting into seeding, here are a few pointers to consider for precision agriculture (PA) style strip trials for the future.

The aim of any trial is to measure the effect of a different treatment(s) on crop performance. In the case of PA technology the trial is also used to see if there was a variation of the response to the treatment between the different zones (or soil types) within the paddock.

The first step is the location of the trial in the paddock. The trial should pass over at least 2 soil types or zones in a paddock for comparison. Zones can be defined based on either EM or gamma surveys, soil mud maps, yield maps or biomass images. It is important to ensure that the trial covers enough of each zone so that a significant number of yield points can be extracted from the yield map during analysis.

The following are some basic findings of strip trial design aspects:

  • Trial treatment strips need to be wide enough for at least 2, though ideally 3, header of around 40 meters.
  • Keep it simple. One or two treatments represent a relatively simple analysis as well as preventing the trial spanning half the paddock.
  • Include control strips, (like the SEPWA variety trials). If yield is trending up or down across the site it can be measured via the control strips and relative adjustments made. This makes the trial wider further reinforcing the need to limit the number of treatments.

At harvest here are some simple yet vital pointers:

  • Use a single harvester to harvest a trial. Variation in the yield monitor calibration between harvesters is an obvious source of error.
  • Harvest the entire trial in the same direction, (if practical). Work by DAFWA biometrician Andrew Van Burgel has identified that there is up to 20% yield variation between the directions of travel of a harvester. This variation is neither consistent nor predictable. If the machine is harvesting up the paddock within the trial, to maintain the data integrity, the machine should jump several run lines to be outside the trial area on the return runs down the paddock.
  • Keep the harvester moving at a consistent speed while within the trial. Simple while waiting for a chaser bin causes irregularities in the recorded yield data.

So in summary for your PA trial plans:

  • Trial treatment strips need to be wide enough for at least 2, though ideally 3, header runs.
  • Keep the design simple – few treatments with large differences.
  • Put in control strips.
  • Use a single harvester to harvest a trial.
  • Harvest all the trial runs in the same direction.
  • Keep the harvester moving at a consistent speed across the paddock when in the trial.
  • Group raw data points into about 20 x 20m blocks averages to then compare across the trial zones and treatments.

Below is an image of a gypsum trial with alternate control strips running parallel to the AB guidance run lines. In a typical strip trial design the trial strips would run parallel to the harvest run lines.

Using Yield Prophet® to match wheat crop inputs with yield potential

This season North Stirlings Pallinup Natural Resources will be working with Department of Agriculture and Food WA, GRDC, CSBP and local agronomists to evaluate Yield Prophet® in Borden as a crop decision management tool. Reports will be available as the season progresses or you could contact Steve Turnbridge, DAFWA Katanning 98213333.

What is Yield Prophet®?

Yield Prophet® is a crop forecasting decision tool developed by the Birchip Cropping Group and CSIRO. It was developed to aid decision making and deal with variable seasons. Yield Prophet® uses the APSIM model and is used throughout the major grain growing regions of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. It can provide simulations to help forecast yield probabilities, manage climate and soil water risk, make informed decisions about nitrogen applications, match inputs with yield potential, assess the effect of changed sowing dates or varieties.

Inputs required

Like any model the better the information that goes in the greater confidence you have on what comes out. Yield Prophet relies on having soil types characterised, but there are few in the Great Southern. For the time being we are matching our soils to soils that have been characterised for the model. Two sites on different soil types have been established in close proximity to the Malting barley variety by seed rate trial in Borden. Soil core samples have been collected and at 0-10 cm, 10-40 cm, 40-80 cm and 80-120 cm for soil nutrients, soil water, pH, EC etc. Samples were collected in April so as to get soil moisture levels as close to the crop lower limit or wilting point as possible.

Sowing date, crop variety, maximum root depth ,nitrogen inputs and daily rainfall data are all required to run the simulations.

See below examples of how Yield Prophet can help Crop Growth. The model predicts the date for a particular crop growth stage eg 4 leaf, tillering etc which help plan crop protection or fertiliser applications. Other information supplied is the available soil water and plant water usage which as you approach the end of the season can assist with decisions for fungicide applications.


Nitrogen applications

The model allows you to compare different rates of nitrogen and their impact on potential yield and probability of obtaining that yield. Please note the three graphs are not related to the same site.

Figure 1: Shows the outcome of 3 rates of nitrogen applied 6 weeks after seeding, with scenario 1-0 kg N/ha, scenario 2-23 kg N/ha and scenario 3-46 kg N/ha. These results can then be used in conjunction with other information that is supplied with the model-available soil moisture, how the season is tracking, other constraints.

Figure 2: There is plenty of stored soil moisture, and when this graph was produced additional information supplied showed there was adequate moisture for the next 10 days assuming no further rain. Using this data in conjunction with weather forecasts can help with decisions on further fertiliser applications or fungicide sprays.

Figure 3: This graph shows the distribution of nitrogen in the soil and you can see there is a great store below 600mm, which the roots cannot access because of some constraint at 200 mm (The 200mm is a figure the user inputs.)

Biochar: how it could benefit your soil?

Many farmers are burning crop residue to control resistant weeds, this to many is a resource being wasted and there is growing potential for farmers to capture this resource and use it to produce energy.

Pyrolysis and gasification are two such methods where materials such as crop biomass and other waste, manure or wood chips are heated in a high temperature, low oxygen environment to produce a syngas that can be used to generate electricity. A by-product of the process is biochar.

Biochar is a stable form of charcoal produced by heating organic material. Due to its structure biochar may remain stable hundreds to thousands of years hence it is being considered as a way to store carbon.

Research by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA has demonstrated that using biochar and half rates of phosphate fertilisers has maintained crop productivity in low P soils. See research results *.

Other reported benefits of biochar include providing habitat for soil microbes, increasing nutrient storage and water holding capaci ty, reduces nutrient leaching, soil acidity, and sequesters carbon. There is however the need to do more field work to determine if biochar has a place in our agricultural systems.

This year North Stirling’s Pallinup Natural Resources will be working with Energy Farmers Australia and two other Grower Groups in the Northern Agricultural Region to evaluate biochar in on farm demonstrations including effect on crop yield and an assessment of the economic benefit of the whole biochar process and potential to sequester carbon.

Unfortunately for this project we were unsuccessful in this years Biochar Research Capacity Bulilding Program (Carbon Farming Initiative) Funding Round. Future options for funding are currently being explored. Thank you very much to Kevin Wise, Wayne Phillips and Energy Farmers Australia who have assisted getting this demonstration in the ground.

For more information contact: Euan Beamont, Energy Farmers Australia, mobile 0427 611 424 or visit their website www.energyfarmers.com.au

*Blackwell P, Krull E, Butler G, Herbert, A and Soliaman, Effect of banded biochar on dryland wheat production and fertiliser use in South-Western Australia: an agronomic and economic perspective, Australian Journal of Soil Research, CSIRO, 2010, 48, 531–545