The introduction of Flexi-N by CSBP to the Western Australian market in the early 2000’s enabled growers to have more control over their nitrogen (N) applications in season. The less toxic nature of Flexi-N also allowed CSBP to investigate and then promote the benefits of banded N at seeding time. CSBP trials have proven that banding N at seeding time can result in up to 20% better efficiency of N use when compared to comparative rates of N applied to the soil surface at seeding time.This increased efficiency can be attributed to the following factors:

- No exposure of N fertiliser to the air resulting in less ammonia losses to the atmosphere (volatilisation). 
- Less N in contact with organic matter resulting in less tie up (immobilisation). 
- Fertiliser N concentrated in a continuous band underneath the emerging seed which allows easier root access to applied N as well as encouraging greater root proliferation and growth around the N fertiliser.

Until recently this increased efficiency could only be achieved by banding the N at seeding time and then following up N applications in-season via conventional methods such as spreader or boomspray. The introduction of streamer nozzles allowed growers to fine tune N applications but the increases in N use efficiency were not as pronounced as those results achieved by banding Flexi-N at seeding time. However recent research conducted by Agriculture Victoria in conjunction with GRDC has introduced the possibility of being able to achieve these efficiency gains in season by using a method of N application called mid row banding. These trials have shown that using mid-row banding in season has resulted in higher yields when compared against current application methods. These trials also showed that the recovery of fertiliser N in the plant and grain was up to 35% higher when using mid row banding as the application method, thus reducing the reliance and reduction of the organic N pool in the soil.

Mid-row banding is a method of application that has been used with success in North America for a number of years. It works by using a specialised machine fitted with single or paired coulter discs fitted with a specialised liquid delivery system.  The discs cut a narrow slot in the soil and the N is applied into this slot under pressure before the slot closes up. This allows the N to be placed precisely underneath the soil surface in every second row of the crop in season.

Fig. 1

Fig 1.- Precise placement of N fertiliser in season using the mid row bander.

CSBP in conjunction with Sprayer Barn and Fast Ag have built a small trial version of a mid row bander for use in CSBP’s Field Research program. This machine has been utilised in a number of trials across the state in this years program with the aim of comparing the N use efficiency of this method of application with other methods such as banding at seeding and the use of streamer nozzles in season. CSBP will continue with this research in a variety of different locations and seasons to determine if this innovative technology has a fit in Western Australia’s farming system. CSBP is also involved in larger paddock scale trials using a 12 metre mid row bander as a part of the CRC Food Agility Project. 

Luke Dawson
By Luke Dawson
- Senior Agronomist
Luke was raised on the family farm at Warralakin east of Mukinbudin before completing a degree at the Muresk Institute of Agriculture. 

Luke started with CSBP in 2005 as a trainee Area Manager and has since worked as an Area Manager based in Hyden, Esperance, and Dalwallinu and District Manager for the Central Midlands District, now based in Kwinana as the Senior Agronomist. 

Luke brings a strong nutritional background to the role, as well as a focus adding value through CSBP's services. 

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