News | March 14, 2024

Dairy Pasture Trial Puts Nitrogen To The Test

Research is underway on the NSW South Coast hinterland to showcase the benefits of soil testing and better fertiliser management to cut farm costs and reduce potential nutrient pollution in coastal creeks, rivers, and estuaries.

NSW Department of Primary Industries’ (NSW DPI) Clean Coastal Catchments (CCC) Research project, in collaboration with South East Local Land Services, is investigating the most effective way to fertilise dairy farm pastures without adding excess nutrients.

The dairy nutrient management trial at Jellat Jellat near Bega is focused on nitrogen, one of the most common fertiliser nutrients used by farmers to promote lush, productive pastures for dairy production.

CCC Research & Development Officer, Luke Jewell said the trial has been designed in consultation with agronomists in the Bega Valley region to ensure it is relevant to local farmers.

“Our research aims to demonstrate how to convert the highest proportion of nitrogen fertiliser into pasture growth, while ensuring the least amount is lost into nearby waterways,” Mr Jewell said.

“If farmers apply excess nitrogen, it can flow off farm into sensitive ecosystems such as marine estuaries, where algal blooms and fish kills can cause both economic and environmental damage.”

DPI Soil Chemistry researcher Dr Simon Clarendon said samples are collected regularly from the trial site to show which fertiliser treatments reduce nutrient loss while maintaining growth.

“Results from this sampling also demonstrate to our participating farmers how data gained from soil testing can help optimise fertiliser use to maximise pasture production and minimise the risk of nutrient loss,” Dr Clarendon said.

Samples from water leaching through the paddock are also tested and analysed to determine how much nitrogen can be lost through inefficient fertiliser management.

The CCC Research project and South East Local Land Services are working with growers to keep sediment and nutrients on farms and out of coastal waterways while supporting profitable and sustainable agriculture.

The CCC Research project is delivered by the NSW DPI and is funded through the NSW Government’s Marine Estate Management Strategy. The ten-year Strategy was developed by the NSW Marine Estate Management Authority to coordinate the management of the marine estate.

Find out more about the CCC dairy nutrient management trial on the NSW DPI CCC website (

Source: The New South Wales Department of Industry