Home' Smart Farmer : May 2015 Contents SmartFarmer • May 2015
Ciampa Produce outputs more than
12,000t of onions each year for
consumption across Australia.
Healthy growing conditions are
evident even in naturally poor soil, as
indicated by the moisture band and
strong root growth.
Emphasis on P
a path to profit
ALARGE-SCALE onion busi-
ness has provided that it
pays to think strategically
about phosphorus applications.
Ciampa Produce, which annually
grows more than 12,000 tonnes of
onions east of Keith, has increased
average yields from 80t a hectare
to 111t/ha in the past three years
and credits an improved fertiliser
strategy for the outcome.
This includes introduction of
BioAgPhos to the program in 2010
and a more consistent release of
P in the growing season than that
provided by superphosphate.
BioAg’s Phil Toy says operators
such as Ciampa Produce are reap-
ing the rewards of emphasising
on measurements and tracking
inputs, outputs and returns from
“The old thinking about P, for
example, can be found among
those who claim they have a good
super history because they’ve fol-
lowed the same practices for genera-
tions,” he said.
“The new thinking, on the other
hand, is about the future and how
fertiliser strategies can be refined to
get the best performance from the
In the Ciampa Produce case,
measurements to refine strategies
include routine fortnightly sap and
petiole testing through the onion
Joint director Daniel Mead first
called on his brother, D&M Rural
director and agronomist Glen,
to undertake a testing program
because he wanted to identify the
barriers to healthy, uninterrupted
“For quality onions supplied to
a discerning national market, we
seek good control of the variables
in growth,” Daniel said.
“Soil and moisture conditions
plus the weather of course come
into the picture but we had been
particularly interested in getting
the nutrient supply right and with
Glen’s services, were able to find
peaks and troughs in phosphorus.”
The existing fertiliser program
for P at the time was primarily
based on superphosphate.
Glen’s testing identified P levels
as being very high early in the life
of the onion plants, followed by
significant leaching away of the
nutrient to form a trough.
Responding with another super-
phosphate application to top up
meant another peak in P followed
by yet another trough.
“Introducing reactive rock
phosphate, with less immediately
available P, in a single early appli-
cation as BioAgPhos, ironed out
the peaks and troughs,” Glen said.
“We’ve taken out the leaching
and variability and avoided going
back to the crop for another appli-
cation of P.”
Although the total cost of nutri-
ent applications has been steady
at about $500/ha – including
nitrogen fertilisers, the BioAgPhos,
a proportion of water soluble P
and other nutrients – the new
program, based on measurement
and the tracking of responses, has
meant improved performance.
Glen is satisfied about the
agronomic benefits of using the
product and believes that while
there have been several factors
contributing to the improved
performance, ranging from use of
water retention products to soil
and water management, this input
is the one that can most clearly be
correlated with outcomes.
While it has proven to be the ideal
means of providing P through the
length of the growing season, it also
ensure this nutrient is available in
the critical early stages when there
is high demand for P.
• Need to know more?
D&M Rural 08 8752 0099 or Phil Toy,
BioAg, 0458 440 225
◗ Average yields at 80-111t/ha
◗ P peaks, troughs measured
◗ BioAgPhos introduced in 2010
Onions nearly ready for harvest.
The new thinking is
about the future and how
fertiliser strategies can
be refined to get the best
performance from the
‘Natural’ reactive rock
phosphate catches on
SUPERPHOSPHATE or ‘super’ is a ferti-
liser processed using sulphuric acid to
boost water solubility of phosphorus.
Various strengths of P, plus addi-
tions of nitrogen, make up a range
of products which have, among their
features, a high proportion of nutrients
in a form that is readily available for
Similar to the familiar ‘super’, reac-
tive rock phosphate originates from
The source is more specific, how-
ever, namely deposits formed on the
sea floor through gradual absorption
of phosphate present in sea water into
dead sea organisms.
Another difference is that it does
not go through the same processing
as superphosphate to boost water
solubility, and the release of P is more
Solubility is determined by labora-
tory testing using the citric acid test,
hence the term ‘citrate soluble’, and
other tests determine critical element
For example, BioAgPhos has a high
level of citrate soluble P at 37 per
cent, and sourcing Algerian product
ensures the lowest possible levels of
Apart from laboratory analyses,
trials clarify performance.
Among these has been a CSIRO
study showing reactive rock phosphate
can outperform superphosphate for
Importantly, primary producers are
finding a key role for RRP because of
the manner of release of P.
The BioAgPhos form of reactive rock
phosphate, for instance, has a third of
its P immediately available with the
balance released over time.
BioAg’s Phil Toy demonstrates the
poor structure of soil that is largely
unsuitable for cereals yet can support
productive onion crops under
irrigation and a carefully formulated
Ciampa Produce joint director Daniel Mead, BioAg’s Phil Toy and D&M Rural ‘s Glen Mead are pleased with the success
Good control of the variables is important to Ciampa Produce joint director
Links Archive April 2015 June 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page