Profitable, low-emission nitrogen application strategies in Western Australian dryland cropping

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Crop and Pasture Science


Print: 1836-0947 Electronic: 1836-5795


dryland cropping, economics, emissions, fertilisers, gross margins, nitrogen application, nitrogen strategies, state contingent


Agronomy and Crop Sciences



Australian grain producers may need to report their farm greenhouse emissions. Accordingly, nitrogen fertiliser application strategies will need to include consideration of their environmental as well as economic impacts. Aims

We aim to identify the nitrogen application strategies suited to dryland cropping in Western Australia that are highly profitable and that generate lower emissions. Methods

Simulation modelling is used to examine the gross margins and emissions associated with four broadly different nitrogen strategies at 14 locations in the grainbelt of Western Australia for different frequencies of cropping. Key results

Strategies that generate high gross margins and moderate emissions often focus on maximising the gross margin of crop production, and apply a decile 5 view of unfolding seasonal conditions. A similarly useful strategy applies nitrogen in a fixed ratio where a tonne of expected cereal receives 45 units of nitrogen from various sources, and a tonne of expected canola receives 70 units of nitrogen from various sources. Where a farmer prefers to apply a constant rate of nitrogen, then exceedingly high or low rates of application should mostly be avoided, either for economic or for environmental reasons, with the better option at many locations being to apply 50 or 75 kg N/crop ha. Conclusions

A few preferred nitrogen application strategies are suggested to be applicable to dryland cropping in the study region. The strategies achieve high profits and generate moderate or low emissions. Implications

Selection of highly profitable and lower emission nitrogen application strategies across the study region can deliver sizeable economic and environmental benefits.