Liquid fertilisers could hold the key to improving nitrogen use efficiency (NUE), which has been recognised as one of the most important issues facing cane growers today as they balance productivity and profitability with long-term sustainability.

In a recent review of ‘nitrogen use efficiency in sugarcane’ by Sugar Research Australia, commissioned by the Australian Government Reef Program, the sugar industry was named as the most significant contributor to the human activity generated nitrogen entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

This report, and the implementation of the Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan outlining the overarching framework for protecting and managing the Great Barrier Reef from 2015 to 2050, means farming practices are now more closely scrutinised than ever.

It comes as no surprise that both Federal and State governments are focused on improving NUE in the Australian sugar industry to reduce these loads wherever possible.

Recommendations to improve efficiency include looking at the source of nitrogen accumulated in cane crops, the demand for nitrogen at different critical growth stages and the fate of nitrogen inputs such as fertilisers in the soil-crop continuum.

All growers with a potential impact on the reef, whether they are near Mackay, Ingham, Tully, Innisfail or Mareeba, now have to effectively manage run-off reduction as part of this 2050 plan. There is no question that liquid fertilisers are the most sustainable option.

Growers moving from traditional granular fertilisers to liquid-based products are already seeing real benefits, but greater awareness and education is still needed. With a careful, scientific-based approach to meeting a farm’s nutrient requirements, waste and excess run-off can be dramatically reduced and, just as it is recommended in this Sugar Research Australia report, LiquaForce can meet the needs of nitrogen at different critical growth stages.

This has been proved in an independent report, Liquid Fertilisers for Plant Care, carried out by the highly respected National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA), University of Southern Queensland. The study, led by NCEA research scientist Pam Pittaway found that LiquaForce liquid fertilisers minimised the potential for nitrogen leaching by 23% compared with other granular fertilisers.

LiquaForce continues to innovate in the area of liquid fertilisers in a bid to ensure a viable and long-term sustainable future for the sugar industry.

LiquaForce’s Three Step Complete Nutrient Management Strategy (Ezy3) is the result of 12 years of research and innovation. The stabilising effect from the use of molasses in step one and organic carbon in step two helps to stabilise intricate fixing bacteria, keeping nitrogen in an ammonia form by inhibiting nitrification.

Another example of the work being done in this area is Liquaforce’s Value N spilt application nitrogen foliar, which can be used in conjunction with any normal weed control spray programs – saving time, minimising labour costs and reducing energy consumption.

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