New study at the cutting edge of mango nutrient use

Mila Bristow

Northern Territory mango farmers will be kept at the cutting edge of nutrient use under a targeted research project examining the complexities of nitrogen. The Department of Primary Industry and Resources has secured $1.7 million for a four year research project into building a better understanding of how optimal nitrogen management can improve production outcomes for the Mango industry. Support for the project comes from an injection of $780,000 cash from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit programme, together with cash and in-kind contributions from the NT Department of Primary Industry and Resources, Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited, Queensland University of Technology and the Mango Industry Association.

This project is part of a broader collaboration, called “More Profit from Nitrogen”, between Australia’s four major intensive nitrogenous fertiliser users: cotton, dairy, sugar and horticulture. The Program is delivering outcomes from 10 research projects Australia-wide led by eight research partners and involving 23 collaborating organisations.

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth, but much of our applied nitrogen fertilisers are not going toward productivity or profit. It’s important to get the balance right as nitrogen can end up being leached through soils into waterways, or lost in other forms as greenhouses gases contributing to Australia’s carbon accounts. The project will help build a better understanding of how nitrogen interacts with soil, climate, irrigation and the plant system. Nitrogen is converted into various forms as it circulates through the atmosphere, soil, plant and water, but it is hard to get a full picture of the nitrogen cycle as it is quite complex. This project will consider nitrogen within all the other elements of mango nutrition, focusing on how we can help growers increase productivity, fruit quality and therefore profit.

Over-fertilising with nitrogen in mango can also cause excessive vegetative growth, reduced yield, reduced quality and increased risk of disease, so better understanding is needed to give producers confidence that reducing their use of nitrogen fertilisers won’t impact on yield. Growers will then be able to fertilise at the most efficient levels, reducing costs of ‘wasted’ fertilisers as well as the risk of production impacts associated with over-fertilising.

With more than 6,500 ha of mango orchards, the NT mango industry produces about 3.5 million trays, or over 24 million tonnes of mangoes each year, representing about 50% of the national crop.

We will be discussing the project in detail at the upcoming 11th Australian Mango Conference with the Australian Mango Industry Association in Bowen (3-5 May), and look forward to meeting many NT growers there. For more information on nitrogen use in plants view our video. To read our publications on understanding and improving nutrient efficiencies in agriculture, visit our webpage.

Project team begins soil sampling (L to R), Queensland University of Technology PhD student Hemant Pandeya who will work on the project with DPIR staff Project Scientist Dr Joanne Tilbrook (standing) and Senior Nutrition Scientist Dr Tony Asis

Project team begins soil sampling, Queensland University of Technology PhD student Hemant Pandeya who will work on the project with DPIR staff Project Scientist Dr Joanne Tilbrook and Senior Nutrition Scientist Dr Tony Asis

Last updated: 03 April 2017