Man on stomach with his arm in a hole in the ground
DAF agronomists installing fertigation in banana trials

This project is the second phase of a research project:

  • investigating the rate of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertiliser on banana productivity and profitability
  • looking at associated environmental impacts.

In 2019, trials were established:

  • at the South Johnstone Research Facility of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF)
  • on commercial farms across the Wet Tropics region.

New trials will be established at the DAF research facility, and on additional commercial farms with different soil types and crop management strategies, to examine nutrient management factors including placement, timing and type of fertiliser.

‚ÄčThis project is delivered by (DAF to support the Queensland Government’s Queensland Reef Water Quality Program.

Our activities

Following on from phase 1 of the project, we are planting new trial sites at DAF South Johnstone Research Facility.  The new site:

  • is much larger
  • has more plants per plot
  • is planted at wider spacing
  • is fertilised using a custom-designed commercial-stye computerised fertigation system.

We will:

  • test 9 different rates of nitrogen and phosphorus
  • regularly collect soil and soil water samples to quantify the movement of fertiliser after application.

In 2024, we will plant an adjoining area to examine nutrient management factors, including:

  • placement of fertiliser
  • timing of fertiliser
  • type of fertiliser.

We’ll monitor 4 rows next to the rates trial to check the movement of nutrients, sediments and chemicals in overland flow and deep drainage.

This trial is being co-designed with industry and co-delivered with other Queensland government agencies and will become a useful resource to support Banana BMP.

Benefits of the project

Improving productivity and profitability are core to the project, but the environmental footprint of each trial treatment is an important part of these trials.  Regular monitoring of soil and soil water nitrogen levels will be integral to the project.

An overall aim of the project is to provide baseline information that can be used for modelling and estimating nutrient budgets under different scenarios.

An added benefit of the trial is gaining understanding about soil biological communities under different fertiliser regimes and collecting data that can be used to inform economic analysis.

The project will incorporate agri-technology to make results available to stakeholders via a user-defined searchable interface accessing near-real-time information.

The project will:

  • improve understanding f P management to maximise banana crop productivity and minimise nutrient losses.
  • provide confidence to growers about adopting recommended N and P nutrient rates and BMP-endorsed fertiliser management practices
  • support Banana BMP by providing information on productivity and creating sites that can be used for extension activities and communication
  • provide information on improved nitrogen use efficiency within banana cropping systems in north Queensland.

What’s next?

Planning for the 2024 planting is well underway. Preliminary workshops have been held with local agronomists and growers to gain their input and prioritise treatments for the rest of the trial.

Get involved

We are looking for new sites on commercial plantations to establish trials. If you’re interested in getting involved, contact us for more details.


Last updated: 15 Aug 2023