The management of nutrients applied in agricultural production systems is a key challenge for sustainable long-term food security under a changing climate.
Our research aims to improve both the productivity potential and environmental outcomes for food production systems for future food security. We develop nutrient management solutions across multiple systems, from those where excessive nutrient inputs are applied due to market demand, to subsistence farming systems where yields are well below their potential. Our research investigates the pathways of nutrient loss, including quantification of greenhouse gases and other losses, the role of soil organic matter for nutrient delivery and the importance of soil health for long-term nutrient supply.
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The group’s capabilities encompass skills, knowledge and resources that enable us to provide a holistic approach to nutrient management that considers the inter-relationship between soil chemistry, soil physics, soil biology, agronomy, landscape, geology, climate, and ecosystem function and service, to work with farmers and land managers to improve their productivity and the long-term sustainability of their farming systems.
Our capabilities include:
- Extensive experience in running field trials at numerous scales and regions, nationally and internationally
- Field-based sensors for monitoring climatic and edaphic properties
- Knowledge of ecosystem function and the importance of region-specific factors
- Use of isotopes to study nutrient transformation and fate
- Analytical capability provided by the Soil node of TrACEES
Our researchers and graduate research students
Associate Professor Helen Suter
Associate Professor of Soil Science
Helen Suter has been engaged in research to improve the efficiency of nitrogen use in agricultural systems, focussing on improving the environmental credentials particularly of intensive systems. Her expertise encompasses novel fertilisers, quantifying soil nitrogen supply and cycles, identifying N loss pathways (including gaseous emissions).
Professor Deli Chen
Professor of Soil Science; Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor
Deli Chen has expertise in water and nutrient dynamics in plant-soil systems, GIS based agroecosystem modelling and decision support systems for optimal irrigation and fertiliser management; and the measures, models and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions from land sources, impact of climate on agro-ecosystems, agricultural ‘big data’ and sustainable indices.
Dr Shu Kee (Raymond) Lam
Senior Lecturer, Climate Change and Biogeochemistry
Shu Kee (Raymond) Lam's research focuses on soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics in agroecosystems, including soil-plant interactions under climate change (elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration) and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions using urease and nitrification inhibitors. He also has expertise in global data synthesis (including meta-analysis).
Graduate research student
Pan Ei Ei Kyaw
Graduate research student
We use a holistic approach to solve nutrient management issues, from detailed mechanistic studies in the laboratory to broad scale field-based measurements, combined with biophysical modelling to extrapolate findings beyond our test sites. We apply a range of techniques including use of isotopes (such as 15N) to understand the fate of nutrients, field-based real-time gaseous emissions measurements to quantify nitrogen loss pathways (for example, open path Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy [OP-FTIR]), and leaching studies at the field scale.
Our field-based work is primarily on commercial farms and enables close interaction with industry partners to ensure meaningful outcomes for the industry and region. We engage with the broader research community and have contributed extensively to national programs on nitrogen management.
Our work covers nutrient management across industries and countries, and with projects undertaken locally and in developing nations to improve farmer livelihood through such programs as the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Our research students come from a diverse background and bring regionally specific knowledge into the research program.
This project aims to strengthen local food security of small-scale farmers and their families in central Myanmar through improved fertiliser use and associated crop management practices.Project
Ammonia volatilisation research and postgraduate research into nitrogen nutrition of cotton
Modification of the mode of nitrogen application into cotton can substantially reduce the losses of ammonia.Project
Use of urease and nitrification inhibitors applied with fertilisers was assessed for impacts on ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions.Project
Improving nitrogen use efficiency in Victorian high rainfall zone dairy systems by better understanding the interaction between fertilisers and the organic pool.Project
Reducing N2O emissions from applied nitrogen with nitrification inhibitors: Identification of the key drivers of performance
The effectiveness of nitrification inhibitors in reducing nitrous oxide emissions depends upon climatic and edaphic factors.Project