Growers can actively lead new cutting-edge research into optimising nutrient management for the mango industry

The Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources (NTDPIR), in partnership with Queensland University of Technology (QUT), is leading one of ten research projects into improving nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) as part a larger national research program; More Profit from Nitrogen (MPfN). The project is undertaking research into quantifying plant nitrogen (N) demand and cycling through soil and plant systems of mango crops. The team, working closely with mango growers, will develop N management strategies that will result in improved quantities and quality of mango yields whilst reducing costly loss to the environment.

NTDPIR Senior Technician Alan Niscioli removes soil from mango tree roots following whole tree extraction of 1.5 year old trees in labelled 15N trial, at Coastal Plains Research Station (Darwin region).

NTDPIR Senior Technician Alan Niscioli removes soil from mango tree roots following whole tree extraction of 1.5 year old trees in labelled 15N trial, at Coastal Plains Research Station (Darwin region).

Six-months into the project, a highly skilled team have been recruited, field sampling has commenced and importantly, active engagement with growers is underway, to seek input and feedback on whether the research is on the right track.

Most mango growers will agree that N is essential for mango tree development, fruit production and quality. Presently, only limited data is available for Australian mango growing regions on the relative importance of soil N processes, total N loss from current management practices and profitable use of N in the plant. Through practical on-farm research, the project is using novel stable isotopes that can be closely monitored as it moves through the plant and soil environments, to quantify mango tree N demand and soil supply. The team will also consider current practices which are influencing NUE to develop improved industry best management practices for optimising N fertiliser use, including enhanced efficiency fertilisers (EEF). The project aims to maximise NUE in the Australian mango industry to increase productivity, profitability and good environmental management.

QUT PhD student Raj Pandeya with soil tubes (for incubation) and soil pits (for characterisation) under mango trees, at Coastal Plains Research Station (Darwin Region).

QUT PhD student Raj Pandeya with soil tubes (for incubation) and soil pits (for characterisation) under mango trees, at Coastal Plains Research Station (Darwin Region).

To date the team has worked with mango growers in the Darwin and Katherine regions to complete:

  1. Sampling of mango soil, which is now being analysed and used for laboratory based incubation experiments, including the performance of different EEFs.
  2. Testing of initial methods to quantify whole tree biomass harvests.
  3. 15N isotope labelled mango trees have been harvested to measure the above and below-ground biomass. This has allowed the team to quantify the amount of N coming from both fertiliser and soil sources and therefore estimate the NUE of mango.
  4. Worked closely with the University of New England in using remote sensing technologies to correlate paddock scale variability and production in Darwin mango orchards. The preliminary yield maps of five blocks (which includes two mango varieties) have been developed and are currently being tested by the participant growers. Remote sensing may be a real precision tool for mango growers in the not too distant future.

The next step for the team is forming a project steering committee to ensure close collaboration with Northern Territory (NT) mango growers and preparing for the 2017 season of research. The team is keen to hear from NT growers seeking to actively play a role in directing this leading research, much of it at the cutting edge for the industry. Please contact project leader, Mila Bristow (Mila.Bristow@nt.gov.au) to learn more!

Article submitted by Mila Bristow, NTDPIR.

Acknowledgements: This project is supported through funding from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural Research and Development for Profit programme, the NTDPIR, QUT’s Institute for Future Environments and Hort Innovation. In-kind support is also provided by the AMIA.

QUT PhD student Raj Pandeya with soil tubes (for incubation) and soil pits (for characterisation) under mango trees, at Coastal Plains Research Station (Darwin Region).

QUT PhD student Raj Pandeya with soil tubes (for incubation) and soil pits (for characterisation) under mango trees, at Coastal Plains Research Station (Darwin Region).