Research could save farmers millions
Thursday, 16 August 2007
University of Adelaide postgraduate student Simon Craig has won a prestigious Victoria Fellowship to help him research the use of liquid fertilisers in agriculture to improve crop production.
Mr Craig, a research officer with the Birchip Cropping Group, was one of six people awarded the annual fellowship from the Governor of Victoria, Professor David de Kretser AC, at Government House this week.
Liquid fertilisers are thought to have enormous potential for improving yields and farm profitability on Victoria's alkaline, calcium carbonate-heavy soils but to date they have been used in a limited way in Victoria.
Mr Craig, 26, has had good success so far with a spray that delivers the exact amount of nutrients needed by the plants.
He believes that if all 800 farmers in the Wimmera-Mallee region were to apply liquid fertiliser in this way it could save an estimated $1.6 million a year.
"If farmers are able to apply less fertiliser and still get the same if not more grain, they would save $20,000 a year. The consumer would also be less likely to face increased prices at the supermarket for their bread, cereals and pasta.
"A further benefit is that liquid fertilisers appear able to better protect the minerals reserves of phosphorus and nitrogen in the soil, stopping pollution of waterways and algal blooms," he says.
To test his theory further and to gather more knowledge, Mr Craig will use his Victoria Fellowship to travel to the United States where fluid fertilisers are widely used.
His study mission will include attendance at the annual Fluid Fertiliser Forum in Arizona, as well as visits with soil fertility and dryland cropping specialists in Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma universities.
Mr Craig completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) at La Trobe University in 2003 and is currently undertaking a Masters by Research (Agriculture) at the University of Adelaide.
The Victoria Fellowships, worth $18,000 each, were established 10 years ago by the Victorian Government to recognise young researchers with leadership potential and to enhance their future careers, while developing new ideas which could offer commercial benefit to Victoria.