Variable and differential application of nutrients to a hill country farm


  • Jd Morton
  • A. Gillingham



Abstract Traditionally fertiliser has been aerially applied at a uniform rate to hill country, but the technology now exists to apply nutrients at a variable rate (VR) and each nutrient differentially, depending on the production potential and pasture composition of each part of the hill. A hypothetical case study of a sheep farm was modelled to show the economic benefits of VR application of phosphorus (P) and sulphur (S) and differential application of nitrogen (N), compared with application of a uniform rate of P and S. The financial analysis demonstrates that the VR strategy of less P and S to steeper slopes where there is low legume and more on easier slopes where there is more legume, costs less than the application of P and S at a uniform rate over all slopes. The cost saving could be used to apply N to steep land on both sunny and shady aspects and easy land on sunny aspects. This differential N application in late winter/early spring ensures better pasture cover for lactating ewes to improve ewe condition at weaning. When this gain in condition was maintained through to mating, lambing percentage increased in the following spring. The benefit from this increased lamb production was an increase in financial returns of $63/ha/year. A qualitative sensitivity analysis indicated that this value remains stable in response to changes in the proportion of each slope class, soil Olsen P level, the relative cost of fertiliser P and N and sheep to cattle ratio. Keywords: differential application, hill country, lamb production, nitrogen, phosphorus, aerial topdressing, variable rate


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How to Cite

Morton, J., & Gillingham, A. (2017). Variable and differential application of nutrients to a hill country farm. Journal of New Zealand Grasslands, 79, 119–123.



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