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Addressing the nitrogen problem in sugarcane production to reduce pollution of the Great Barrier Reef

Robinson, N. and Brackin, R. and Paungfoo-Lonhienne, C. and Lonhienne, T. and Westermann, M. and Salazar, M. and Yeoh, Y.K. and Hugenholtz, P. and Ragan, M.A. and Redding, M. (2016) Addressing the nitrogen problem in sugarcane production to reduce pollution of the Great Barrier Reef. In: 7th International Nitrogen Initiative Conference (INI 2016).

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Article Link(s): http://www.ini2016.com/pdf-papers/INI2016_Robinson...

Abstract

The N pollution footprint of sugarcane cropping is large due to inefficiencies caused by mismatched N supply and crop N demand over sugarcane’s long N accumulation phase. The Great Barrier Reef lagoon receives excessive N loads that contribute to the rapidly declining reef health. Exceeding international average nitrous oxide emission rates several fold, sugarcane soils contribute significantly to Australia’s agricultural emissions. Nitrogen pollution reduction schemes over recent decades have mostly targeted reducing N fertiliser rates in line with expected yields and improving soil quality. Overall, these measures have not resulted in the desired N pollution reduction and further innovation is needed to address this problem. We present research that aims to aid agronomic innovation with (i) next-generation fertilisers that
are based on repurposed nutrient-rich wastes and sorbent materials to better match N supply and crop demand and to improve soil function and carbon levels, (ii) understanding of soil N cycling and microbial processes, (iii) legume companion cropping as a source of biologically fixed N, and (iv) genetic improvement of sugarcane that more effectively captures and uses N. We conclude that evidence-based innovation has to support crop growers across climate and soil gradients in the 400,000 hectares of catchments of the Great Barrier Reef. This should include investment into new technologies to support ecologically-sound agriculture and a circular economy without waste and pollution.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Business groups:Animal Science
Keywords:companion cropping, crop breeding, waste repurposing
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural chemistry. Agricultural chemicals
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agriculture and the environment
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Methods and systems of culture. Cropping systems
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Fertilisers
Plant culture > Field crops > Sugar plants
Deposited On:23 Jan 2017 02:01
Last Modified:01 Feb 2017 02:44

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