Agronomic factors are the dominant influence on nitrogen fertilizer strategies in dryland cropping systems
Elizabeth H. Petersen, Craig A. Scanlan, Michael P. Burton, Yvette M. Oliver, Daniel V. Murphy & Frances C. Hoyle.
Agronomy for Sustainable Development
Factors affecting fertilizer decisions made by grain growers are changing in the context of changing climatic conditions and growing volatility in global fertilizer and grain markets. To ensure sustainable development of grain industries in light of this uncertainty, research, development, extension, and adoption activities associated with growers’ fertilizer decisions need to be focused on factors to which they are most sensitive. The aim of this paper is to understand the factors that have the greatest influence on grain producer’s fertilizer strategies, how these factors have changed over recent years, and what is the relative importance of agronomic, socioeconomic, and logistical factors affecting these strategies. A telephone survey of 425 grain-growing businesses in Western Australia was conducted, and survey results were analyzed statistically. We show for the first time that grain growers’ fertilizer decisions are most sensitive to agronomic factors (especially the amount and distribution of rainfall). Logistic factors (such as difficulties fertilizing increasing areas in short periods of time) are growing in influence as farm size, cropping areas, and the number of fertilizer applications within seasons increase. Fertilizer decisions have become less sensitive to socioeconomic factors over the last 10 to 15 years. To ensure sustainable development of grain production, research through to adoption activities should focus on agronomic issues (such as seasonal forecasting) and logistic issues (such as improving planning, organizational, and technical capacity for developing and implementing fertilizer strategies).