Nutrient performance indicators for the Australian grains industry

This project aims to develop and test a process to measure and report the nutrient use benchmarks partial nutrient balance (PNB) and partial factor productivity (PFP) for N, P, K and S for grain production systems against which growers can assess their nutrient management practices. These metrics will be derived at national, agroecological zone, regional and farm levels using published and surveyed information.


Overview Fertilizers are a critical input to productive and sustainable farming and their effective use supports economic, social and environmental outcomes. While there are guidelines on nutrient best management practices using the principles of 4R nutrient stewardship (the Right source, applied at the Right rate, at the Right time and in the Right place), there are few metrics that can be used at a field, farm or regional scale to assess the effectiveness of those practices. Read more

Year of initiation:2015
Year of completion:2016


25 Jan 2017

Potassium removal and use in Australia
Presented at the K Frontiers workshop, Rome, Italy

07 Dec 2016

Nitrogen performance indicators for Australian grain farms
Presented at the International Nitrogen Conference, Melbourne, Australia

05 Apr 2016

Nutrient Use Efficiency beyond 2020
Dr Norton presents summary in Beijing

27 Jul 2015

Nutrient Use Efficiency on Grain Farms
A GRDC Supported project

Interpretive Summary

This project aimed to develop nutrient performance indicators for Australian grain farms. Data on nutrient removal, nutrient use, crop management and estimates of nitrogen (N) fixation from 500 paddocks was collected and collated. A series of articles on this work was developed in collaboration with the ExtensioAus network to share these results with growers and advisors across the nation. The survey found that one third of the paddocks had 50% more N removed than supplied.

With financial support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation, data were collected from five years of cropping from over 500 cropping fields in south-eastern Australia. Crop yield, residue management and fertilizer use were used to estimate removal and use of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and sulfur (S) in aggregate from the field over the study period.

IPNI in collaboration with Southern Farming Systems (SFS) and GRDC, conducted a benchmarking project to identify how efficiently farms in the southern grain growing regions are utilizing N, P, K, and S. This project aims to develop and test a process to identify nutrient use benchmarks using partial nutrient balance (PNB) and partial/total factor productivity (PFP) against which growers can assess their nutrient management practices.

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Updates & Reports


2016 Annual Report


Nutrient efficiency and grain production


Project Description

Assessing the balance of nutrient inputs and removals

Project Leader

Rob Norton, International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI)

Project Cooperators

Shukee Lam, The University of Melbourne
Elaina vanderMark, Southern Farming Systems

IPNI Staff

R. M. Norton


Oceania \ Australia and New Zealand \ AUS \ Victoria


4r place, 4r rate, 4r source, 4r time, nutrient removal and cycling, nutrient use efficiency

Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Sulfur (S)