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Title: Validation of NBudget for estimating soil N supply in Australia's northern grains region in the absence of soil test data
Contributor(s): Herridge, David  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2017
DOI: 10.1071/SR16336
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Abstract: Effective management of fertiliser nitrogen (N) inputs by farmers will generally have beneficial productivity, economic and environmental consequences. The reality is that farmers may be unsure of plant-available N levels in cropping soils at sowing and make decisions about how much fertiliser N to apply with limited information about existing soil N supply. NBudget is a Microsoft (Armonk, NY, USA) Excel-based decision support tool developed primarily to assist farmers and/or advisors in Australia's northern grains region manage N. NBudget estimates plant-available (nitrate) N at sowing; it also estimates sowing soil water, grain yields, fertiliser N requirements for cereals and oilseed crops and N2 fixation by legumes. NBudget does not rely on soil testing for nitrate-N, organic carbon or soil water content. Rather, the tool relies on precrop (fallow) rainfall data plus basic descriptions of soil texture and fertility, tillage practice and information about paddock use in the previous 2 years. Use is made of rule-of-thumb values and stand-alone or linked algorithms describing, among other things, rates of mineralisation of background soil organic N and fresh residue N. Winter and summer versions of NBudget cover the 10 major crops of the region: bread wheat, durum, barley, canola, chickpea and faba bean in the winter crop version; sorghum, sunflower, soybean and mung bean in the summer crop version. Validating the winter crop version of NBudget estimates of sowing soil nitrate-N against three independent datasets (n = 65) indicated generally close agreement between measured and predicted values (y = 0.91x + 16.8; r2 = 0.78). A limitation of the tool is that it does not account for losses of N from waterlogged or flooded soils. Although NBudget also predicts grain yields and fertiliser N requirements for the coming season, potential users may simply factor predicted soil N supply into their fertiliser decisions, rather than rely on the output of the tool. Decisions about fertiliser N inputs are often complex and are based on several criteria, including attitudes to risk, history of fertiliser use and costs. The usefulness and likely longevity of NBudget would be enhanced by transforming the current Excel-based tool, currently available on request from the author, to a stand-alone app or web-based tool.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Soil Research, 55(6), p. 590-599
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Place of Publication: Australia
ISSN: 1838-675X
Field of Research (FOR): 070302 Agronomy
070306 Crop and Pasture Nutrition
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Environmental and Rural Science

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